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Coalition govt bins PTI’s demand for snap polls

PML-N decides to complete tenure

Amidst a huge political crisis prevailing in the country, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to complete its constitutional term with the support of its allies.

The demand of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to hold early elections was also rejected by the government.

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Sources privy to the developments told this scribe that it was decided in a meeting held at Model Town Lahore to go for completion of the constitutional tenure. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif also joined the meeting via video link from London.

MinuteMirror learnt that completion of the tenure was already decided in a meeting held between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari last week, but some time was sought to have final approval of the elder Sharif.

Last week, Zardari had called on Shehbaz Sharif at his residence in Lahore and assured him of full support of allies during his term as the prime minister. He also informed the premier regarding his meeting with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) President Ch Shujaat Hussain. Separately, Shehbaz also held consultations with the head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and key government ally Maulana Fazlur Rehman over the completion of his tenure.

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The ruling PML-N will work on two-pronged strategy, as decided in the meeting held on Monday. First, it was decided to take tough measures if the government failed to get the bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Secondly, Nawaz has directed PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz to go to the public to build a narrative against Imran Khan and hold him responsible for the economic crisis that has crippled the country. “You will see more rallies and public meetings from now onwards of Maryam Nawaz to build a counter-narrative of Imran Khan,” said a senior PML-N leader.

Moreover, the elder Sharif also directed his younger brother, the prime minister, to consult Zardari before taking any decision. Shehbaz was directed by his party leader to take Zardari in the loop before taking any decision regarding the long march of Imran Khan, sources said. Nawaz also directed his party to expedite the process of electoral reforms in parliament and complete them before going into the elections. The process of appointing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman should also be started and the required consultations with the opposition leader in National Assembly should be completed soon, Nawaz was quoted as saying.

Later, talking to the media in Model Town, PML-N leader and close confidant of the prime minister, Malik Ahmad Khan, said the government would complete its constitutional tenure.

“We’ll surely complete our constitutional tenure. It will be no less than even one day,” the PML-N leader said. Talking about the long march announced by Imran Khan, he said it was not a march but a plan of anarchy. “What civil rights are they demanding through it?” he asked, and added that the former premier’s government was ousted through a constitutional process and therefore he should wait for the next elections. “We don’t believe in arresting political workers,” he added.

According to reports, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will chair an important meeting of the coalition parties tomorrow (Wednesday) in which the future course of action regarding the next general elections would be announced. The allies have also decided that PTI’s long march will be handled in a democratic way and they will not be allowed to hold a rally on Srinagar Highway in Islamabad.

Instead, the PTI will reportedly be provided with a ground to hold a rally or stage a sit-in as an alternative to Srinagar Highway.

The coalition government hinted on Saturday that it was ready to walk away from power and take its case to the people if not allowed to freely rule the country and complete the remaining constitutional term.

The threat to leave the government came from Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah against the backdrop of an ongoing stalemate between the PML-N-led coalition government and the powerful stakeholders of the country.

“If we are stopped from working, our hands and feet are tied and reservations are expressed on our performance then those responsible should take the burden. Why should we take the responsibility when we are not responsible for destroying the economy?” the interior minister said, adding, “We would approach the masses after discussing with the [government] allies”.

Sanaullah also warned Imran against creating a law and order problem in the federal capital during the planned long march, saying the law would take its course against those doing so. “Law will take its course against Imran Niazi if he attempts to be the gravedigger of democracy during the march,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Police reportedly launched a crackdown on PTI workers by conducting raids in multiple cities, including Lahore, Rajanpur and Khanewal, and arrested dozens of party leaders and workers ahead of their Azaadi March on May 25.

According to PTI leader Hammad Azhar, the police surrounded his house in Garden Town to arrest him and other PTI workers ahead of the march. Talking to a private news channel, PTI leader Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the police crackdown on PTI leaders and workers was a clear violation of the court orders. “Any police officer who indulges in such politically fueled activities will pay for it,” he added.



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