Apr 28

Forcing out the Premier: PML-N weaves plot for ouster

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) says it will not let the premier stay.PML-N

A meeting of top party leaders in Lahore devised some preliminary strategies on forcing the convicted prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to step down and replacing him with another candidate, sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune.

The options include protests, inside parliament, on the streets, and negotiations with all stakeholders, including government’s allied parties and the army, to oust Gilani from his office.

The PML-N’s legal team also briefed Nawaz Sharif on the legal options available.

Luring the allies

A central party leader, on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that he has approached an ally of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and initiated discussions on transfer of power from Prime Minister Gilani.

The PML-N leader said he offered the PPP ally that an MNA from their party could replace Gilani and would later announce a caretaker setup for the next elections.

Asked if the new premier would write a letter to Swiss authorities, to reopen graft cases against President Zardari, the PML-N leader said: “Definitely, he has to write the letter.” He added though that negotiations are premature.

When the PPP-led coalition government will feel insecure, they will come to the negotiating table, he added.

Forced removal

Since the prime minister is not expected to resign voluntarily, the party discussed ways to forcibly remove him from office.

Among more concrete signs of protest, sources said Nawaz has advised his younger brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab, to withdraw protocol from Gilani and provide him security that is entitled to a former prime minister.

The Punjab Assembly will move a resolution against Gilani, and Nawaz will lead some protests too, sources said.

Protests inside and outside parliament may force other stakeholders, including the army and the international community, to ask Gilani to step down, sources quoted Nawaz as saying.

Rallies and public gatherings have a small impact so they should focus on severe protests in the National Assembly and work out the possibility of a ‘long march,’ Nawaz reportedly told party members.

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar suggested that some members will be assigned to walk up to Gilani’s chair on the floor and force him to leave the office.

This would be to convey a message to stakeholders that they need to intervene and remove the prime minister, sources said.

After these protests, the army chief may intervene, a PML-N lawmaker hoped.

The party chief will meet the lawyers’ community, international stakeholders, and the civil society in order to pressurise the PPP to replace Gilani, sources said.

Nawaz has not ruled out the prospect of negotiations with the government though, a source said.

The party chief will try to convince the PPP to replace Gilani and set out a roadmap for a caretaker government and the next general elections, the source added.

Nawaz asked party leaders to work on the options and resubmit them at a meeting scheduled for Saturday (today).

Apr 16

PPP, PML-N agree to postpone Local Government elections

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have agreed not to push for local government elections ahead of the parliamentary polls scheduled for early next year.Election Top leaders from the country’s two largest political parties came to the consensus during their talks earlier this year which culminated in the unanimous passage of the 20th Constitutional Amendment.

Insiders from both sides confirmed to The Express Tribune on Sunday that withholding the local government elections – a system introduced by ousted military ruler Pervez Musharraf to devolve powers to the grassroots level – was part of the negotiations.

“We have agreed not to force the issue. We feared there would be political complications which should be avoided,” an official revealed.

On the surface, the talks were aimed at giving legal cover to the election of more than two dozen members of parliament (MPs) suspended by the Supreme Court — on the pretext that they were elected during the period when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was not complete, following the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment back in 2010.

Officials said that though the two parties specifically decided contours of the transition that has to take place after the fresh parliamentary polls later this year or by March 2013, an understanding on local government polls was also the outcome of the intense parleys that lasted for more than a week.

The revelation came three days after the Supreme Court asked all top legal officers of the provinces and the attorney general to submit a schedule for the local government elections.

Officials from both the PPP and PML-N, however, did not admit that there was “secret deal or understanding” to withhold the local government elections. Rather, they kept on pinning blame on each other for the delay.

PPP Punjab chapter leader Raja Riaz said that it was the provincial administration led by the PML-N that was shying away from seeking votes from people despite PPP’s willingness to accept the challenge.

He, however, did not specify why the PPP did not go for local elections in provinces other than Punjab.

“I can only talk about Punjab,” he said.

PML-N spokesperson Senator Mushahidullah Khan said his party did not see any possibility of local government elections ahead of the parliamentary polls because the electoral rolls were not complete and the task might take ECP some more time.

He, however, denied that his party had any secret deals with the PPP to delay the elections.