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ISLAMABAD: Unfazed by threats from five lawmakers to resign, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided not to yield to a religious group’s demand for removal of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.
None of the dissident lawmakers has actually resigned and the ruling party believes that reports of handing over of resignations to a Sargodha-based cleric are mere threats. No resignation has been received either in the National Assembly secretariat or in the Punjab Assembly secretariat.
A senior PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, said the PML-N government was in no mood to surrender again – like it did in case of the Faizabad sit-in by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which only ended after federal Law Minster Zahid Hamid tendered his resignation.
However, now a splinter faction of the same group, led by Ashraf Asif Jalali, continued the protest in Lahore, calling for Sanaullah to step down as well. The demand is now being supported by Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, the cleric from Sargodha.
“There would be no end to this,” said the leader, referring to the demand by Pir Sialvi. “If you accept one demand, they will come up with another, then another and so on.”
The PML-N leadership is, however, relieved that Pir Sialvi could only present five of its lawmakers, expressing their readiness to quit during a religious rally in Faisalabad, even though he had claimed to have “over a dozen lawmakers” at his beck and call.
Under electoral laws, only speakers of the respective assemblies have the authority to accept or reject the resignation of an assembly member. In case of a senator resigning, the decision to accept or reject rests with chairman Senate. Even a party chief cannot have any lawmaker ousted from parliament or a provincial assembly.
A PML-N senator, who wished to be kept unnamed, said PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other top leaders of the party have agreed not to show any flexibility regarding the demand for Sanaullah’s resignation.
“We are still reeling from the fallout of the Faizabad operation. We can’t afford another such blow,” said the senator.
“We are not concerned about resignations. But the situation can get ugly if any street agitation starts. Sialvi’s public address in Faisalabad shows he can pull a sizeable crowd. This needs to be countered,” he said, adding that the Punjab government would not allow the religious group to besiege Islamabad in pursuit of its demands.
He said that the PM and the Punjab CM were expected to fly to London to discuss the issue with the PML-N chief after the PM’s Turkey visit
The PM will participate in the Extraordinary OIC Summit on Al-Quds Al-Sharif being held on Wednesday (tomorrow) in Istanbul.
According to officials, the Punjab CM may also attend the summit as a ‘special guest’ on the special invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both Abbasi and Shehbaz are expected to fly to London to take guidelines from the former PM on what to do if the situation in Punjab aggravates.
Lately, ties between the Sharif brothers have improved after the Supreme Court reopened the Hudaibya Paper Mills case. They are now exchanging notes on political issues and have decided to jointly work to face challenges.
Sources said that after the botched operation at Faizabad, Sharif had come down hard on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and it was then decided that the PML-N would not yield again to demands from any religious group or political party.