Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday suggested up to 50 lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the Punjab Assembly may vote against Pervaiz Elahi—the PMLQ leader contesting against PMLN’s Hamza Shehbaz—in the run-off election for the provincial chief minister today (Friday).
Addressing a press conference, he claimed it was “possible” that “sensible” PTI members would question Elahi’s selection as the candidate for chief minister because their leader—Imran Khan—had earlier described the PMLQ leader as the “biggest dacoit of Punjab” before asking them to vote for him. He also alleged that not all of the PTI lawmakers believed Elahi’s claims that he would “instantly dissolve the assembly” if called upon to do so by Khan.
Rejecting the PTI’s allegation of the PMLN “buying” votes, he admitted that the party was nonetheless “in contact with everyone,” as was its “political and democratic right.” Stressing that the PMLN “despises the politics of horse-trading,” he said it was the PTI chairman who had secured a majority in Punjab after the 2018 elections by “buying” independent candidates.
“Who spent money on the people you welcomed in your party [PTI] after the 2018 elections? Who spent the money on it? Whose plane was used?” he said, adding that while the PMLN did not believe Elahi had the “right or the capacity” to become the chief minister, it would still not resort to “buying and selling of votes.”
On the PMLN’s massive loss in the Punjab by-elections—the party secured only 4 seats out of 20—he claimed this was not “indicative of the PMLN’s popularity.” Emphasizing that no party’s popularity could be judged on just 20 seats, he acknowledged that the PMLN’s decision to award seats to dissident members of the PTI had been a “mistake,” as those candidates had been burdened by Imran Khan’s “incompetent and unpopular Punjab government.” He said in addition to a lack of support from voters, these candidates had also not been able to attract the full campaign support of PMLN leaders and workers.