The PML-N-led coalition government on Tuesday unanimously decided that the general elections in the country would be held on their scheduled time instead of succumbing to PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s desire despite his party’s victory in the recent by-elections in Punjab.

The decision was made at a joint meeting of the ruling party and its coalition partners in Lahore’s Model Town, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman. It was decided that the current government would complete its tenure.

In view of the political situation after the by-elections, the constitutional and legal options for maintaining the PML-N government in Punjab were discussed. On the occasion, a PML-N leader also gave a briefing to the participants on the number game in the Punjab Assembly, while the strategy for the re-election of the leader of the house on July 22 also came under consideration.

Insiders said it was also decided in the meeting that the government would soon come up with a counter-narrative to deal with that of Imran against the institutions. The participants of the meeting were of the view that the results of the by-elections in Punjab were not a “barometer of popularity” for any party.

Senior politicians including PPP Co-Chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari, JUP’s Maulana Shah Owais Noorani, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq, Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, JWP’s Shahzain Bugti, ANP leader Mian Iftikhar, PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, JUI-F’s Akram Durrani, PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema and Salik Hussain, National Democratic Movement’s Mohsin Dawar, ex-Balochistan Assembly speaker Aslam Bhutani, and PM’s aides Ahad Cheema and Fahd Husain attended the meeting.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Addressing a news conference after the meeting, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, accompanied by JUI-F’s Durrani, ANP’s Mian Iftikhar and PTM’s Dawar, pointed out that the results of by-polls reflected that the PML-N’s vote bank had actually increased.

He claimed that the PML-N had managed to bag five of the 20 seats won by the PTI and independent candidates in the 2018 elections.

He maintained that the results of the by-polls had proven that the security establishment was impartial as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

He said the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the ANP and the PPP had reservations about the court’s interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, in a 3-2 split decision, had declared that the votes of defecting lawmakers would not be counted, the retroactive application of which led to the de-seating of the 25 PTI dissident lawmakers, who had voted for Hamza for the chief minister’s position.

“A review petition [in that connection] is pending with the SC. It is our appeal that this is taken up by a full court and a speedy judgement be given on it,” he added. JUI-F’s Durrani said the coalition government knew if Imran remained in power, the country would have defaulted.

Saad said that the PTI chairman was criticising at institutions but he was still considered “loyal”.

“If it were somebody else, he would have been declared a traitor.”

Speaking on the occasion, Dawar asked the chief election commissioner to announce a decision on the foreign funding case as soon as possible.

He said that it was an encouraging sign that free and fair elections were now taking place in the country.

On the court’s observation on Article 63-A, the MNA said the judiciary should function within its limits, while parliament’s powers should remain with it.

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