Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday said it wasn’t necessary for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take a vote of confidence from the National Assembly at someone’s behest. Even if he was asked to do so, the PML-N would have the required numbers, he added.
The remarks come in the backdrop of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s assertion that Shehbaz would have to take a vote of confidence and that they might return to the National Assembly for the very purpose.
An additional reason he cited for this apparent U-turn after dissolving the Punjab Assembly was that they won’t allow Raja Riaz – the leader of PTI dissidents in the National Assembly and also the Leader of Opposition – to help install the future caretaker setup.
Khawaja Asif, replying media queries and expressing his views in a TV talk show, said the Centre faced no threat from the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly. The PML-N had neither been damaged nor will it be cornered, he asserted.
However, he admitted that if Hamza Shehbaz, the former Punjab chief minister, had been present at the time of the vote of confidence in the Punjab Assembly then the situation would have been different.
Replying to a query regarding the PTI’s return to the National Assembly, the defence minister said they had returned to the assembly with disgrace in 2014 as well.
He said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was waiting for the party to provide him with legal cover for his return home. He could come back to the country as soon as lawyers confirmed legal preparations were complete, Khawaja Asif noted.
Asif said that what happened to Nawaz Sharif was a tragedy as he was penalised for not taking a salary from his son. In comparison, he said, Imran’s hands were stained with the Toshakhana and many other pending cases. “Imran Khan has a long list of crimes.”
The PML-N, along with all the allied parties, will finalise a name for caretaker chief minister of Punjab on Tuesday, he said.
Responding to a query about the newly emerging political scenario, he said, “Let the PTI first come to the National Assembly. We will see what happens after they come.”
No talks on interim setup before August
On the other hand, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the coalition government will “welcome back” the PTI lawmakers to the National Assembly, but any discussions on an interim setup would not be held before the end of the mandated tenure of the government in August.
Rana Sana said the PTI MNAs will have to withdraw their resignations to get back to the National Assembly with Imran having to submit a request to the speaker in order to become the leader of the opposition.
He reiterated that the general elections will be held upon the expiry of the parliament’s five-year term. “When the tenure of the assemblies would end on Aug 16, 2023, he (Imran) will be part of the consultation as the leader of the opposition and then the decision of the caretaker would be made.”