ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan this weekend moved to protect three beleaguered provincial chief ministers but the issues within the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) persist that will continue to challenge his rule in the days to come.

On the other hand, the ruling party still is struggling to keep its coalition partners — MQM, PML-Q, GDA and BNP-Mengal — intact at the centre because of having a thin majority in the National Assembly.

After facing a revolt-like situation within his own party in two major provinces — Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — that are being directly ruled by his party, and in Balchistan where PTI is in coalition government, the PM gave a tough rather clear message to the “dissidents” and “conspirators” by saying that all three chief ministers (CMs) would stay.

On last Sunday, the Khyber Pakhtukhwa governor had sacked three provincial ministers of the PTI government for allegedly revolting against Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and seeking help from powerful circles to replace him. The decision was taken on the directions of PM. Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, the same day, on the directions of central government stepped up efforts to avert a rebellion in the coalition government in Balochistan and later addressing a presser said that CM Balochistan Jam Kamal Alyani would continue with his position.

Similarly, the PM himself rushed to Lahore last weekend, and gave a strong message by remarking that Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar would stay and was also quoted as saying that “an organized mafia is spreading negativity and hampering positive administrative changes being made by his government.”

A question is being sought within the ruling party whether the dust has settled with all these efforts? The reply is “no” from a large number of party lawmakers. From Punjab, they say that their complaints regarding the administrative issues the province is facing have not been addressed.

The PTI lawmakers in the largest administrative unit of the country are angry with the leadership because of a continuous disconnect with the bureaucracy and non-issuance of development funds.

After the replacement of chief secretaries and provincial police chiefs one after the other during his present rule in Punjab, the PM has now given more powers to incumbent Chief Secretary Azam Suleman Khan and Inspector General of Police Shoaib Dastagir to run the affairs of the province. PTI lawmakers understand that the PM’s more reliance on bureaucracy has automatically made Buzdar weak as the chief executive of province.

PM Imran Khan’s separate meetings with the party MNAs and MPAs at the chief minister’s secretariat have not satisfied them and they believe that the issues would continue to appear with the present arrangement of provincial administrative set-up.

Secondly, the party lawmakers are worried about the non-release of development funds for their respective constituencies because such funds are considered a key to victory for any election for any lawmaker.

The issue of delay in disbursement of development funds in Punjab had apparently perturbed Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry who not only took up the matter in the party’s core committee meeting but also wrote a letter to the prime minister.

Many PTI insiders believe that the minister takes the occasion to speak against the Buzdar administration when powerful circles within the ruling party become angry with CM Buzdar.

Federal Information Minister Fayyaz ul Hasan Chohan also chose to speak against Chaudhry Fawad for his remarks against the CM Punjab that is being seen by party lawmakers as a voice of another powerful group within the party. However, the continuous practice of senior party leaders to bring their internal rifts in public has damaged the party much and the matter has not been settled yet at any party forum.

Besides these internal party affairs in Punjab, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), a key coalition partner of the PTI in Punjab besides centre, is dissatisfied with the ruling party and at one time had threatened to quit the government if its ministers and lawmakers were not given powers as decided in an already signed power-sharing formula between the both. This issue has also yet to be resolved by the government.

The situation is not better in KP where PTI had emerged as the single largest party, as a result of 2018 general elections, to rule the province. The governor has sacked three ministers including Atif Khan and Shahram Tarakai. Atif was once a strong candidate for the slot of provincial CM and had succeeded to get the blessing of Imran Khan till the senior party leader Pervez Khattak intervened and got changed the decision. Both are staying in Islamabad for quite some days to get their issues resolved with the intervention of senior party leaders. The cracks in the ruling party in KP are apparent and the senior leadership has yet to resolve the issues.

On the other hand, the rebellion in the coalition government in Balochistan is averted for the time being but it is not fully over yet.