Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi on Thursday reiterated to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan that he will dissolve the provincial assembly whenever directed to do so, emphasizing that he “owes” his leadership position to the ousted prime minister.
Last week, concluding his party’s long march to Islamabad in Rawalpindi, Khan announced his party was quitting all assemblies as he did not wish to be part of the “corrupt” system. The announcement triggered a flurry of speculation over whether this would mean the dissolution of the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, where the PTI and its allies are in government. A key stumbling block, according to observers, was whether Elahi would agree to dissolve the Punjab Assembly, with PTI leaders from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa admitting that there was no point in dissolving the KP Assembly if Punjab were not also wrapped up.
While Elahi issued a video statement maintaining that he would not even hesitate a minute to dissolve the Punjab Assembly if directed to do so by Khan, rumors of a rift persisted due to the lack of any formal meeting between the two, with a previously scheduled meeting for Tuesday abruptly cancelled. On Thursday, Elahi and Khan finally met to discuss his announcement—though the meeting appeared to not yield any conclusive decision.
Pledging to remain loyal to Khan, Elahi reiterated that he would not “hesitate even a moment” to dissolve the Punjab Assembly if ordered to do so by the PTI chief. Claiming “certain elements” were trying to sow discord between the PTI and PMLQ, he claimed they would “fail again” in trying to dislodge the Punjab government. “Imran Khan is indispensable,” he said, and challenged the opposition to table a no-confidence motion against him. “They have failed before and will fail again,” he said, maintaining that they lacked the required number of lawmakers to succeed.
“If the Punjab Assembly is in session, then governor’s rule cannot be imposed,” he said. “It is my honest advice to the opposition: please read the rules of business,” he added. “Whatever Imran Khan says, I will do without hesitation. Punjab Assembly [is a minor thing], I will even give my life for Imran Khan,” he said.
Speaking with media after the meeting, PTI senior leader Pervez Khattak—who also attended it—said it was up to Khan to take a final decision on dissolving the assemblies. “Khan sahib is our leader. All the decisions that have been made will be unveiled later,” he said. To a question, he said he did not expect any dissension within the PTI, as the security establishment has already committed to shun politics.
However, per sources within the PTI, several of its lawmakers are not pleased about the decision to dissolve the Punjab Assembly. They said several MPAs had urged the PTI chief to delay dissolving the assembly until a more “opportune” time, noting they should be allowed to complete development work in their constituencies to secure public support ahead of fresh elections.
The PTI is set to conduct meetings of its parliamentary parties over the weekend, with an aim at conclusively determining its next steps. PTI leader Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has already announced that Khan would make public the party’s final decision next week.