Is it just storm in a teacup or something more?
Since the release of the FIA report on the wheat and sugar crises a week ago, the situation appears to be changing for the ruling PTI. Senior leader Jehangir Tareen, who has been named in the report as the biggest beneficiary of the export of the sweetener, has started enumerating his services to the party, including his claim that he was the one who had brought 60 per cent of “political families” of Punjab to the PTI’s fold before the 2018 elections, which made it possible for the party to win 67 NA seats from the country’s most populated province.
In media interviews, JKT also articulated his role in making the 2014 Islamabad sit-in a well-attended event, which had established the PTI as a party with the huge public following.
The billionaire senior leader sees nothing wrong with the Rs 560 million subsidy he received during the PTI government and Rs 2,500 million he had got during the preceding PML-N rule. His stand amounts to challenging his perceived culpability.
JKT’s future role will become clearer when the forensic report on the two crises, slated for April 15, is released. The prime minister had given the nation assurance of stern action against all those to be identified in the ensuing document.
In addition to JKT’s utterances, there are reports of contact between estranged PTI leader Aleem Khan and PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah Khan, the man who is an irritant for Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Then Lahore PTI leader - Ajasam Sharif - who is a “political convert” is said to be trying to go back to the PML-N, for which purpose he recently hosted a reception in which an important leader of the Sharif family – Bilal Yasin Butt, a cousin of the Late Begum Kulsoom Nawaz - was among the participants. To camouflage the reception’s real purpose, the host also invited leaders from some other parties.
PML-N MNA Khwaja Saad Rafiq and his brother Salman’s meeting on Saturday with PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (who is also Speaker of the Punjab Assembly) is very important. Although they belong to rival factions, the two brothers’ visit to inquire after PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is indicative of the softening of attitudes of both sides.
It may be mentioned that Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had called and congratulated Saad Rafiq when he was released on court’s orders recently.
The melting of ice on two sides is a good political omen which, in the prevailing situation, may bring Chief Minister Buzdar under pressure.
These developments are taking place when the PTI-led government has completed slightly more than a quarter of its constitutionally-mandated five-year term and has more than three years to stay in power.
But in a country where political weather can’t be forecast as it changes within no time, these developments can’t be taken lightly. Since everything is fair in love and war, the disgruntled PTI leaders may try to create any situation beyond the expectations of top leadership.
Maybe, the political birds feeling uneasy in their present abodes have started looking for new nests before the next elections. The purpose of their contacts is to get adjusted before the trumpet for fresh elections is blown.
The opposition parties like the PML-N, the PPP, the JUI-F and the Jamaat-i-Islami have already started demanding new polls. At present, entire attention is focused on coronavirus because of which the call for the fresh mandate is not being made as vehemently as before. But as soon as the situation improves, opposition parties’ demands for balloting will rejuvenate.
The PML-N will certainly be very happy over being contacted by people from the PTI. However, it will not like to take a decision on them in haste.
Personally, the Faisalabad leader is impressed by the political following of Aleem Khan. He has been quoted as saying that if someone thinks that Aleem Khan has a support of only 20 to 25 PTI MPAs, he is only underestimating him. “I personally know his real strength in the ranks of the PTI, which is much bigger than it.”
Ajasam Sharif’s reception and an important PML-N leader’s presence there is very important.
Ajasam had returned to the Punjab Assembly twice from PP-140, Lahore on the PML-N’s ticket. His father- Haji Sharif -was also elected MPA from the same party’s platform during 1990-93 and 1997-99.
Political circles think only time will tell whether the initiatives taken by Aleem Khan and Ajasam Sharif are just storm in a teacup or they will lead to some important developments.
While such developments are going on, the PML-N is taking steps to discourage its adherents from violating discipline. It plans to take action against about half a dozen Punjab Assembly members who had recently met Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
The party calls the meeting a breach of discipline, although the “rebels” say it was aimed at seeking development funds for their respective constituencies.
They were issued show-cause notices requiring them to explain their positions.
If dissatisfied with their replies, the party can proceed against them under the defection law and seek their disqualification as members of the legislature.
The PML-N MPAs who called on Buzdar were Nishat Ahmed Daha, Ashraf Ali Ansari, Faisal Khan Niazi, Mohammed Arshed and Azhar Abbas. (PPP MPA Ghazanfar Ali Khan also accompanied them).