While rumour has it that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Punjab “is about to collapse”, Chaudhry brothers’ Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – a much-needed ally of the PTI on both provincial and federal levels – is mulling to get done with Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s blue-eyed Chief Minister (CM) Usman Buzdar, The Current has learnt.
According to sources, the PML had taken after the 2018 general election a principled stance to not join hands with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) so as to not get itself labeled as blackmailers of the country’s political quarters, and had helped the PTI form its government instead.
“Moonis Elahi had decided that the party would support the PTI in both Punjab and centre, where we are an important ally of Imran [Khan] considering how his party cannot do much with its strength in the hung houses of parliament,” party sources said.
They added that Moonis had been commended by both his father and uncle, as well as other veteran politicians of the PML, since it was a principled stance. “But it wasn’t later that we realised we had shot ourselves in the foot.”
“We could’ve joined hands with the PML-N and easily been handed the Punjab CM slot, but we decided to form the coalition with PTI in good faith and support Buzdar. [Punjab Assembly Speaker] Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi supported him [Buzdar] like he would support any person from his own family, but what we got in return was the fear of drowning,” they said.
Sources added that the party was mulling to get rid of Buzdar because they were being compelled by no delivery of works in their constituencies in particular and in Punjab in general. “We don’t want to be among those lawmakers in Punjab who are drowning under Buzdar’s leadership. We do not want to lose our constituents’ support only because we contested elections with the PTI and can’t do anything for our people after coming to power.”
When asked about how the PML was planning to remove Buzdar as the provincial chief executive of Punjab, they said, “We have the support of around 20 to 25 lawmakers from the PML-N and PTI each. A majority among the group is that of women lawmakers of the PML-N on reserved seats.”
“We gave Buzdar multiple chances but he doesn’t care about all what we have done. He knows he doesn’t have to cave since he enjoys the support of PM Imran,” sources said, adding that the party leadership was discussing if a no-confidence motion should be tabled against him.
“Both Buzdar and the premier know we can gather the support needed to get the Punjab CM changed, and that is why Imran has now hit at us by indirectly calling us ‘conspirators’. Although it’s not like how the PM thinks that someone in our party wants the CM slot for himself, but enough is enough.”
Speaking to The Current, Moonis Elahi neither confirmed nor denied the claims made by his colleague on the condition of anonymity. “Do we?” he said with a winking emoji when asked about the support of around 60 lawmakers his party allegedly enjoys in Punjab.
Responding to other queries, the lawmaker said the PML had undoubtedly formed the coalition in good faith and the party were sure about it back then, however, he did not comment over if they regretted it now.
“We don’t want to topple Buzdar government. On the contrary, we are seriously contemplating not to support any other candidate from [the] PTI,” he said further, adding that the PML was satisfied with Buzdar.
Moonis maintained that Imran should clearly name the ‘conspirators’, and distanced himself from any of the claims made by his colleague. “The pressure group has nothing to do with the PML. It is, in fact, supporting Buzdar.”
The PML leader, however, said that they did not want to be among Punjabis drowning because of the PTI government. “We are an independent party that is accountable to its constituents and will keep their interest above all,” he said.