Nothing alarming about Opp MPs’ meeting with CM Buzdar
A meeting of a group of seven MPAs, six of them from the PML-N and one from PPP, with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in Lahore on Tuesday, is being projected as a step towards the formation of forward blocs in the two major opposition parties.
The MPAs are reported to have assured “unconditional” support to the CM while the latter gave them assurance of due respect and dignity.
The same day PML-N legislators at a parliamentary party meeting in Islamabad demanded the return of party president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif from London, where he has been since November 2019.
The demand was made by Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and was backed by some others.
Shehbaz had gone to London in November last year, along with his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, for the latter’s medical treatment.
The return demand is being portrayed by media as if there was a revolt against the party leadership.
Political observers are of the view that neither any forward bloc is in the offing, nor there is any chance of a revolt against the Sharifs.
Let’s try to analyse the two developments.
The PML-N MPAs met the chief minister on a day the Punjab Assembly was in session, a time when legislators’ meeting with the chief minister or even speaker is a routine.
(Those who met the CM are: Maulana Ghayasuddin (Narowal), Nishat Ahmad Daha (Khanewal), Ch. Ashraf Ali (Gujranwala), Muhammad Faisal Khan Niazi (Khanewal), Muhammad Arshad (Sahiwal) and Azhar Abbas (Muzaffargarh).
PPP MPA Ghazanfar Ali Khan from Rahim Yar Khan also met the chief minister.
The elements reading too much into the meeting should bear in mind that Buzdar is the chief minister for all MPs, belonging to the treasury as well as opposition. If opposition legislators meet the province’s chief executive and discuss with him problems of their respective constituencies, there should be nothing alarming.
In principle, the opposition legislators’ meeting and the chief minister’s assurance should be appreciated.
It is in fact lack of our political tolerance that has made the meeting a big news.
Had the opposition and treasury leaders been meeting in the past there would not have been tensions between the two sides and the country would not have been facing the kind of problems it is facing at present.
As for the result of this meeting, there is little possibility of any legislator changing loyalties. Anybody doing so will have to face legal consequences, which may lead to their disqualification.
Needless to reiterate that voters elect a representative for the solution of their problems. If the MPs meet the relevant authorities to have problems of their constituents redressed, they only discharge the obligations of their mandate.
And if the government gives funds to opposition legislators for the uplift of their constituencies, they are not doing them any favour.
Opposition MPs have as much right to government funds as their treasury counterparts.
As for the legal consequences, Article 63 (A), as amended through the 18th amendment in 2010, forbids the elected member from changing party, abstaining from voting or voting against the party discipline.
In case of any violation, the party head can take the matter to the election commission that can de-seat a member after completing a procedure.
As for the PML-N leaders’ demand that the party president should return to the country, there is nothing wrong with it.
Mian Shehbaz Sharif is not only the party president but also opposition leader in the National Assembly. In his absence, the seat has been lying vacant for the past four months.
Since many members of the Sharif family are already there in London, they can take care of the former prime minister during his treatment. In case Shehbaz still thinks he should stay back with his ailing brother he should vacate the office for some party legislator.