Independent MPs flock to Imran Khan, as Pakistan’s opposition unites
Imran Khan is set to be the country's next prime minister, but the opposition is uniting to give his government a tough time
After bagging the highest number of seats in last week’s controversial election, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party is set to lead the new national government as well as those in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
While the PTI won a two-thirds majority for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, party insiders confirm that they have enough allies and independent candidates on board to lead the government in Punjab state as well as nationally.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has formally announced an alliance with the PTI, which means that the party will be part of the government in the center, and will form the opposition in the Sindh Assembly, where the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has the majority.
In addition to the MQM-P, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) have a sufficient number of independent candidates on board to help ensure they have a majority in the national government and in Punjab.
First session of new parliament in mid-August
Sources within the Election Commission of Pakistan told Asia Times that an initial session of the National Assembly is expected to start in middle of this month, with members take an oath and electing the speaker and deputy speaker. The prime minister would then be elected in the next session.
August 4 – last Saturday – was set as the final day for election officials to submit results of the ballots following recounting, and notification was due to take another two days (Monday August 6). Once official notification is released, independent candidates have another three days to announce if they’ve decided to join a political party.
“This allows the allocation of reserved seats, which are distributed in accordance with the party strengths in the assembly, to be accurately carried out,” Kanwar Dilshad, a former ECP secretary, said. “As per the Election Act, independent candidates need to submit a certificate in this regard, before the gazette notification of the election, which underlines the breakdown in regard to parties.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, citing legal reasons, two separate independent candidates said they had agreed to join the PTI in the center and Punjab respectively. “I can also tell you that the vast majority of the independent candidates are going with the PTI over the PML-N, because that is the obvious choice, given that the party is forming the government in the center as well,” one of the two elected independent candidates told Asia Times.
Former PPP Punjab president Manzoor Wattoo, who joined the party after winning as an independent candidate in the 2008 election, said independently elected politicians prefer to side with the winning party. “I can tell you that many of the independent candidates I know are joining the PTI in numbers. And this is because it is while sitting in the government that they can exercise the clout and fulfill the promises that they’ve made to their constituencies,” he said. Wattoo also ran as an independent this year as well, but suffered a surprise defeat.
Ejaz Chaudhry, who has served as PTI’s Punjab president also confirmed that the party has “sufficiently more” independent candidates on board both for the national administration and Punjab. “Currently, our nomination for the Punjab Chief Minister is under discussion. Some 11-12 names have been pitched, but the final decision rests with the chairman [Imran Khan],” Chaudhry told Asia Times.
Opposition parties unite against ‘rigged’ poll
As the PTI gears up to lead the government in Islamabad and two provinces, they are likely to encounter an opposition who stand united in their accusation that the July 25 election was “heavily rigged”.
Following the election an alliance between the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, PPP, Mutahhida Majlis-e-Amal and ANP has taken shape and it has decided field united candidates for the prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker positions.
While the parties hope that they will be able to elect their candidates for the three positions as a united front, insiders said they know that the likelihood is that they will form the opposition, especially after the MQM-P formally announced its alliance with the PTI.
“We’ve finalized the three candidates, the PM nominee will be from the PML-N, speaker from the PPP, and deputy speaker from the MMA,” Liaquat Baloch, MMA’s secretary told Asia Times. “But if we end up forming the opposition, we’ll play our impactful part to defend the Constitution and democracy, along with bringing forth the countless evidence for the blatantly rigged election and agitate for a fairer election inside and outside the parliament.”
When asked if by agitation outside the parliament, if he meant sit-ins and rallies similar to those orchestrated by the PTI during the previous tenure, Baloch said: “How else does one protest on the street? It’s not done by the reciting the tasbeeh [a form of Islamic prayer].”
Ejaz Chaudhary says that his party realizes that the PTI government will face stiff opposition and that its majority in Islamabad and Punjab is marginal, which would allow it to be challenged.
However, the senior PTI leader said the party was ready to take up the challenge. “A strong opposition helps maintain the unity of the government party. Also, a healthy opposition also helps develop the accountability process, which in turn ensures that the government performs at its best,” Chaudhry said.