ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan People’s Party will consider supporting the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to topple the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led provincial government in Punjab after by-elections this weekend, close aides of the PPP leadership said.

Senior PPP leaders told The Nation the party leadership – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari – wanted to take decisions on PML-N requests for cooperation on ‘issue-to-issue’ basis but cooperation with the PML-N in future cannot be ruled out.

“The cooperation after the by-election could be considered if the PML-N performs well. We are supporting them on most of the seats,” said a close aide if the Bhutto family.

The Election Commission of Pakistan will hold by-elections for vacant national and provincial assembly seats on October 14.

Thirty seats - 19 provincial and 11 National Assembly constituencies - have been lying vacant after the July 25 general elections. The seats fell vacant because either the successful candidates vacated the seats or election could not be held on July 25 for other reasons.

PTI emerged as the single largest party at the national level in terms of popular vote and seats. At the provincial level, the PTI became the largest party in Punjab after independents and smaller parties joined them. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also the PTI formed the government and is part of the Balochistan coalition government. Only in Sindh, the PPP managed to win the elections once again.

Almost all the parties, excluding the PTI, alleged large-scale vote rigging and administrative malpractices. However, the ECP outrightly rejected such reports and stated that elections were conducted fair and free.

On July 25, the PML-N won 127 general seats in Punjab while the PTI was successful on 122. The PPP has 7 seats after the addition of a reserved seat.

However, after some independents joined the PTI, the equation changed. The PTI, with the addition of reserved seats, now has 176 members, the PML-N has 162 and the rest of the seats are divided among the smaller parties.

Elections will be held on 13 vacant seats for the Punjab Assembly on October 14 which could narrow down the difference between the PTI and the PML-N. Support by 7 PPP members could also be helpful for the PML-N.

PPP Secretary General Nayyar Bokhari said the party will not take a decision in advance. “Let the by-elections take place. We will cross the bridge when we get there. At this time, we are supporting them for by-elections on so many seats,” he added.

Bokhari said PPP will take decisions on issue-to-issue basis. “There is no rush to offer support when there is ‘if’ in the statement. We will consider anything when we have a clear position,” he told The Nation.

The PPP leader said Prime Minister Imran Khan was giving contradictory statements on the economic condition of the country. “He (Imran Khan) has to either commit suicide or go to the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” the former Senate Chairman quipped.

He said the PM has to convince the nation that the accountability is not discriminatory. “The people are awaiting arrests of people wanted by the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw, Balochistan,” he said.

Senior PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed predicted that the PTI will retain power after the by-elections. “I don’t think anything is going to change. The PTI will remain in power. If there is a situation, the PPP can consider options,” he added.

Ahmed told The Nation that the PPP was in favour of joint opposition but the cooperation with the PML-N depended on “their attitude.”

“The PML-N has sought our support but we have to take our own decisions.  We are already supporting them in the by-elections,” he said.

PPP leader Natasha Daultana said the PPP believed in strong democracy and would support all efforts to strengthen the democratic system. “Our main aim is to keep the democratic system running. We will not support any anti-democracy attempt. The PPP is doing the opposition of principles. We have stood with the PML-N in the past when we thought, democracy was in danger,” she reminded.

Daultana said the party leadership will take a decision after the by-elections on the future line of action.