Change of heart? Imran says PTI can return to National Assembly

In yet another move that may be described as a U-turn, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said they could return to the National Assembly to ensure that the future caretaker setup at the Centre wasn’t formed through the likes of Raja Riaz – the leader of PTI dissidents who currently leads the opposition in the House.

He added that the decision was also aimed at foil any attempt by the party turncoats to help Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif get vote of confidence that the party is planning to put the premier to “test”.

With Raja Riaz holding the parliamentary party leader’s position in the National Assembly, PTI fears that he may decide to vote in favour of the prime minister if President Dr Arif Alvi asks Shehbaz to take the vote of confidence.

The statement comes just days after the PTI chairman opted for dissolving the Punjab Assembly with a similar move on the cards in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He has been ruling out the possibility of returning to assemblies as the PTI parliamentarians tendered their resignations en masse on April 11, two days after Imran was ousted as prime minister through a no-trust move.

During an interaction with journalists at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, Imran said they had devised a strategy for the Lower House of Parliament. Shehbaz would soon have sleepless nights, he remarked.

Earlier, Imran had said that Shehbaz would have to take a vote of confidence, claiming that several PML-N MNAs were in contact with his party.

The PTI chairman said planning and consultations with party leaders as well as legal experts were afoot to strategise how PTI’s turncoats can be stopped from siding with the ruling coalition of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

Talking about the local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad, he alleged that the PPP could not win elections without rigging but admitted that his party’s weakness was also a reason behind their defeat.

Referring to the establishment’s involvement in politics, Imran said there was no significant change in the Bajwa doctrine.

About the prevailing economic crisis, Imran said the incumbent government had been trapped. “Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had to increase the prices of petroleum products but he didn’t, which means the IMF would not come to rescue the country.”

When it came to the PML-Q, he said the allied party’s future was the PTI. “The PML-Q will win if it contests the elections on the symbol of bat,” he claimed.     

Sources say the party might send its legislators, more than the number of PTI dissidents, to the National Assembly to check the legislators elected on the PTI tickets.

They said even then Raja Riaz’s decision as the parliamentary leader might still prevail as it would require time and efforts to get him replaced from the parliamentary leader’s position.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the party’s return to the National Assembly was linked with the plan to oust Shehbaz and his party was seeking legal opinion on how it could bind its MNAs to vote in line with the party policy in case of a no-trust move, and if that could be achieved without joining the assembly. “We will take the decision for returning to the National Assembly based on the legal advice.”

The PTI leader acknowledged that talks over a caretaker setup were not the sole reason to consider returning to the assembly because the ECP would finally be deciding about the caretaker set-up — “as per the whims and wishes of PML-N”.

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