ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had dearly needed to form a coalition government with the Pakistan People’s Party in 2018 to be able to run the affairs smoothly without big bargaining with the smaller parties and the independents.

There were rumours at that time that PTI chief would go for the option for a stronger government. Even before the 2018 elections, PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari had not ruled out alliance with the PTI. He had also claimed that no one will be able to form government without the PPP.

With some 155 seats, the PTI needed a strong partner who could help muster the majority. The PPP had 56 seats which were more than enough.  If the PTI had opted to form an alliance with the PPP, it would have needed to bargain with one political party.  The smaller ones would have themselves been attracted.

Since both the sides had not ruled out the partnership, the PTI-PPP government was one option that was a possibility in 2018. Former prime minister then took a strict stance that he would not form a government with the PPP or the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).

The government looked shaky right from the day one with smaller partners and independents and a meagre majority.

Now suddenly, a leaked phone call has surfaced which indicates that Imran Khan may have tried his luck with Zardari.

The date of the phone call between former president Asif Ali Zardari and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz is not confirmed yet but it is making rounds on social media.

In the so-called leaked phone call, authenticity of which has yet to be verified, Riaz tells Zardari that Khan (an apparent reference to ousted prime minister Imran Khan) is requesting him to mediate between him and the PPP co-chairman.

In response, the man on the other side of the phone, who is said to be Zardari, said: “It’s impossible now.” On this, Riaz said: “Yes, that’s fine; I just wanted to bring this matter into your notice.”

If the date is of 2018, it will be evident that Khan tried to form a coalition government with the PPP but if it’s most recent, this would mean Khan tried to save his government before being ousted. Even if the date of this phone call is after Khan’s ouster, it means that the PTI chief was making efforts for a comeback.

PML-N’s official twitter account said Imran Khan was “begging opposition leaders for NRO while publicly creating a completely opposite perception,” terming it a “hypocrisy.”

PPP sources maintain the phone call could be during the recent weeks when the then opposition filed a no-confidence motion against the then PM.

“Malik Riaz had been in the picture. There were calls from him about reconciliation with the PTI. This could not happen though,” said a close aide of Zardari. The PPP leader said Imran Khan had already missed the train when he started his latest efforts to survive.

Several years back, Zardari had formed a coalition government with the PML (Quaid-e-Azam) with the aim to make the government stable. He too, was fed up with the regular blackmailing by the smaller partners.

Imran Khan could have done it in 2018 and even in the later years, but his efforts were a little too late to save his government. Had he gone for it in 2018, he would still have been the PM and perhaps Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP chief, as the country’s foreign minister.