PTI emerged victorious in the Punjab by-polls held on 17th July on the seats vacated as a result of the decision of Supreme Court to de-seat the defecting parliamentarians. PTI won 15 of the 20 contested seats of the provincial assembly, while PMLN managed victory on 4 seats only.
The result came as a shock to PMLN as even in Lahore, which was once considered stronghold of PMLN, it was able to win only one of the contested seats.
The decisive victory of PTI in the crucial by-polls points to the declining popularity of PDM. The PMLN-led coalition government has been losing public support with each passing day due to the worsening economic condition of the country. Inflation has reached record levels while the value of rupee is in a freefall.
In this context Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif invited the leaders of PDM to a meeting in Lahore to discuss PDM’s next plan of action. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and other key political leaders.
While PTI has been demanding early elections, PDM today at the meeting ruled out the dissolution of assemblies. Sources privy to the development informed Pakistan Today that during the meeting, Asif Zardari and Maulana Fazl convinced Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other PDM leaders to make joint efforts for the continuation of the government as immediate elections would most likely result in landslide victory of the PTI.
“Asif Zardari also assured the meeting that he would not only manage the upcoming election of Chief Minister Punjab and provide adequate number of lawmakers to support Hamza Shehbaz to stay chief minister but he would also make sure to help Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to continue as premier,” a source told Pakistan Today. Hence it has been decided in the meeting that the incumbent government will complete its term that is due to expire on August 17, 2023.
Addressing media after the meeting, PML-N leader and Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said that the coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz has decided that it will complete its constitutional tenure despite the defeat in the Punjab by-polls.
“We came into power in the larger interest of the country… we knew that they [PTI government] had laid economic landmines left for us but we took tough decisions to save the country,” Khawaja Saad Rafique said. The railways minister stated that the by-polls were not a barometer to gauge popularity of any party and added that his party snatched five provincial assembly seats from the PTI in the by-polls.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, on the other hand, view the result of the by-polls as decisive victory as it has paved the way for the party to elect Pervez Ilahi as the CM of Punjab.
Meanwhile, PTI criticized the PDM meeting because while the economy is in shackles, the PDM seems unbothered by it.
روپیہ تیزی سے کمزور ہوگیا اور ڈالر 230 کا ہوگیا ، اور یہ لوگ ٹھنڈے کمرے میں بیٹھ کر پاکستان کی معیشت کا جنازہ نکلنے پر مسکرا رہے ہیں۔
— PTI (@PTIofficial) July 19, 2022