Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned of dissolving Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies in the current month, if the government does not announce a date for early elections. It appears both sides will stick to their guns and the two provincial assemblies would be dissolved. If it happens, it will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that general elections would be held in the country after the election of the provincial assemblies.
The government wants to delay elections as long as possible because it believes it will lose them badly after prices have skyrocketed in the country because of domestic and international reasons. It thinks it has reached a dead-end of its popularity and it will be able to woo voters ahead of polls by announcing incentives and reducing inflation. It does not care whether Imran Khan dissolves the two provincial assemblies or not. However, it will do its utmost to stop him from dissolving the assemblies. It has already weighed all options, including bringing a no-confidence motion against the two chief ministers. It also considered imposing governor’s rule in the provinces, ruled by Imran Khan’s party.
On the other hand, Imran Khan thinks he is at the prime of his popularity and elections should be held at the earliest, so that he can become prime minister again. The government has so far successfully resisted his struggle for early elections. It was the best option for him to dissolve the provincial assemblies, where his party rules. The government and analysts close to it believe he will lose all stakes in the system after the move. However, he believes he will become stronger after it.
However, there are apprehensions that Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Peraiz Elahi will dissolve the assembly, even if Imran Khan asked for it. Though he and his son, Moonis Elahi, openly claim they would not spare a minute if Imran Khan asked for it. However, many analysts doubt it. Their recent interviews show they are taking a different line from that of Imran Khan. In an interview, Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi said that former Army Chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa had nudged the PML-Q to support the PTI and Imran Khan in the no-confidence motion. He said he had received offers from both PTI and then-opposition for support. He said that his son Moonis Elahi had also expressed a desire to side with the PTI. “God changed our path at the last moment and sent Bajwa sahab to show us the way. When I expressed my concerns about the Sharifs and that I don’t trust them then Bajwa sahab said, ‘You should proceed carefully and the path going towards Imran is better for you and your friends,’” he added.
Earlier, Moonis Elahi had claimed that General Bajwa had advised his party to support the PTI in the tussle with the PDM in April. “At present, a certain section on social media has been bashing Bajwa sahib without any reason. He is the same Bajwa sahib who had changed the direction of the events for the PTI,” he said, adding that he had a serious disagreement with the PTI and anyone else speaking against the retired army chief. “The man went all out for the PTI, but now as he has retired, he has become a bad person,” he regretted.
On the other hand, Imran Khan said that he had committed a “big mistake” by granting General Bajwa an extension and also accused the former army chief of engaging in “double games”, doublespeak, mixed messages and alleging that he denied everything when asked about the establishment’s contact with the then opposition. To a question about Moonis’ claim, Imran explained: “Moonis was asked to support Imran Khan, while the other one (Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain) had been asked to go to the PML-N. General Bajwa was playing a double game and I could later identify that even PTI’s men were being given different messages.”
Whether the Punjab chief minister dissolves the assembly or not, it will become clear in the next two weeks. However, Imran Khan is adamant about dissolving the assemblies and he has asked his party leaders to prepare for elections. PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the ex-premier had directed provincial assembly members to return to their constituencies and prepare for elections. In a tweet, he added, “If the PDM continues to run away from elections, we will go for provincial elections of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and elections for the National Assembly would be held later”.
It is clear that Imran Khan has decided to dissolve the provincial assemblies. If elections are held in the two provinces, his party will gain an absolute majority. His party has a thin majority in Punjab but almost a two-thirds majority in the KP Assembly. In this way, his party will be ruling over 60pc of the country even before the general election is held. He will also be better placed to win the next election by winning polls in the two assemblies.