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Sunday, November 26, 2023

How will PM Imran Khan deal with the forward bloc in Punjab?

As Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government seems to be weak and vulnerable, allies and lawmakers from his own party are forming pressure groups to fulfil their own political interests. What option do PTI have at the moment?

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is to face a new political crisis as at least 20 lawmakers of the Punjab Assembly have formed a separate group to resolve the province’s issues, vowing to stick together to have their demands met. This challenge seems to be ‘virulent’ for the government already facing public backlash for ill-thought economic policies.

The group of 20 MPAs, led by MPA Sardar Shahab-ud-Din Khan of Layyah, have put forth their demands to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, requesting that public projects be set up and funds released for their constituencies.

Sardar Shahab-ud-Din told media that the group comprises Ghazanfar Abbas Chheena, Tamoor Ali Lali, Muhammad Mamoon Tarar, Chaudhry Faisal Farooq Cheema, Ejaz Khan, Gulraiz Afzal Chan Gondal, Col (r) Ghazanfar Abbas Shah, Khawaja Muhammad Daud Sulamani, Sardar Muhammad Mohiudin Khan Khosa, and Amir Inayat Khan Shahani, among others.

The group has demanded the Punjab chief minister to release funds and set up public projects for their constituencies, the MPA said, adding that he was and would continue to be with the PTI, and would also contest future elections from the ruling party’s platform.

Read More: Politics of brinkmanship: The making of new political legitimacy crisis in Pakistan?

He maintained that they want development.  He said “our main agenda is development. Some people had reservations over the local administration”. Shahabuddin said they would go to any length to have their issues resolved.

“Our remote areas should be treated equal to Lahore and Faisalabad, which is also the manifesto of the PTI,” he said. “We do politics for honour. If we are not given respect, then there will be no party, government or bureaucracy.”

A party needs minimum 186 seats to form its government in the province. The PTI has 181 MPAs and the support of 10 members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid in the assembly

The PTI’s coalition partners have expressed reservations during the past few days over their demands not being met, with the ruling party’s own MPAs in Punjab upset over similar issues as well.

It is worth noting that the PML-Q has also conveyed its reservations along with demands to the senior PTI leadership. “This week is very important. We will see if a standing order has been conveyed with regard to empowering our ministers and lawmakers. If not, then we will weigh other options we have,” told a senior PML-Q leader to media on Sunday.

Read More: Prime Minister Khan orders Major Reshuffle in Punjab Bureaucracy

Similarly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui on Sunday announced that he was resigning from his post as Minister for Information Technology. Siddiqui lamented that after 16-17 months, not even one point regarding the conditions in Sindh had seen progress. “At this point, it becomes difficult for me to remain in the government, that I [continue to] hold a minister’s position, and people in Sindh continue to face the conditions they did before we joined the [federal] government,” he said.

Fayyazul Hassan Chohan rubbished reports

However, Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan has said that there is no forward bloc in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and all of the party lawmakers in Punjab are loyal to Prime Minister Imran Khan. The minister contended that forward bloc members don’t sit with the parliamentary party in the assembly. “There is no such story here,” he told a private TV channel.

He maintained that all of the lawmakers are loyal to the party, “All of them are loyal to the PTI and Imran Khan sahib.”

A party needs minimum 186 seats to form its government in the province. The PTI has 181 MPAs and the support of 10 members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid in the assembly.

Read More: Contest for New CM spokesperson in Punjab: 3 Candidates under Consideration

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is the second largest party with 165 seats, whereas the Pakistan People’s Party has seven seats in the house.

The emergence of a forward bloc could increase challenges of the PTI government as it is already engaged in talks with its coalition partners —MQM-P), PML-Q, Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Balochistan National Party Mengal (BNP-M) — to keep its alliances intact.

It is yet to be seen how the PTI reacts to the demands of the forward bloc.