Critical meeting between Q, govt to decide on Punjab chief ministership

ISLAMABAD: A day after the government reportedly assured Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) to hand the prized post of Punjab chief minister to its leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi in return for its support during the no-confidence vote, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat are expected to hold a make-or-break meeting to decide on the replace of incumbent Usman Buzdar.

Elahi, who is also the speaker of the Punjab assembly, and party leaders including Elahi’s son Moonis Elahi and Minister for Housing and Works Tariq Basheer Cheema will travel to Islamabad where former prime minister and Q-League supreme leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is also present.

The party will hold a second meeting with a negotiation team designated by the government in the next 24 hours.

Citing sources, a report in Dawn said a negotiating team led by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has “given its word to the party that Buzdar will be asked to resign in a day or two, and that Elahi is the government’s preferred choice for the office”.

Meanwhile, reports also emerged on Saturday claiming Buzdar prepared a summary to dissolve the House and is awaiting further instructions from the prime minister. But a PML-Q leader claimed “the assembly will not be dissolved, but a change of the leader of the house is expected”.

The report in Dawn further said Cheema asked the government to make a formal announcement regarding Elahi before going for voting on the no-confidence motion.

The motion seeking the ouster of the prime minister was submitted to the office of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on March 8. It accused him of mismanaging the economy and poor governance in the toughest challenge he has faced since taking power in 2018.

With the help of several smaller parties, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a narrow majority in the National Assembly. It has 179 seats in the 342-member House, only seven more than required for a simple majority.

PML-Q — which is considered pro-establishment, and has five seats in the National Assembly and 10 in the Punjab Assembly — is a member of the coalition, led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in power in Punjab and at the centre.

It has assumed great importance since the multi-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance of opposition parties ramped up efforts to dislodge the government.

If none of the MPs from the ranks of the prime minister’s allies or the PTI vote against him, he will likely succeed. However, the PTI is currently facing a split because of an internal revolt by some members.

The opposition, on the other hand, has 162 members and needs a simple majority of 172 to topple the government.

Should Khan fail to win approval, the parliament will have to choose a new prime minister.

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