Another Muslim League faction faces uncertain future


    From the Newspaper | Khawar Ghumman |

    ISLAMABAD: Is Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q) destined to end up in the dustbin of history like so many other factions of the mother All-India Muslim League that conceived and created Pakistan did in the past?

    At least it looks a possibility after seeing its members — not just the “likeminded” brand — deserting to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party from which they had broken away in 2000 to share power with the last military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf. PML-Q ruled the roost from 2002-2007 but came third in the general elections held in February 2008 on the crest of political and judicial upheavals which forced the military ruler to leave.

    Gen. Musharraf’s exit from the scene in August 2008 left the PML-Q a political orphan, condemned to a slow death.

    But credit goes to its astute leader, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussian, who saw to it that the party he had formed not only survives the strife inside and hostility outside but becomes relevant to the never-ending political games in the country.

    It is significant that it took its “likeminded” dissidents in the Punjab Assembly four years to make the final break and formally joined the PML-N — a union that leaves more egg on the face of PML-N than of the PML-Q as the former threw away its principles to readmit “betrayers” in its ranks.

    No doubt, however, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat have to work harder now to hold their flock with them until the general elections.

    In background interviews, several senior party leaders betrayed worries of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who head the PML-Q at national and Punjab level respectively. The PML-Q has 50 MNAs which makes it the third largest parliamentary party in the house and had 80 MPAs in Punjab until last week when the 45 “likeminded” formally crossed over to the PML-N.

    Most of the sitting PML-Q lawmakers are said to be busy weighing their chances in the next general elections, due within a year.

    Some are in talks with other political parties and may take the path the likeminded took, said a senior PML-Q leader who wished to remain anonymous.

    According to him, the major concern for the PML-Q leadership at the moment is to keep its lawmakers together in order to strike “a good election deal” with the ruling PPP. Though leaders of the PPP and PML-Q speak of an electoral alliance between them, PPP’s co-chairman and shrewd tactician, President Asif Ali Zardari, will take advantage of the open fissures and

    indiscipline in the PML-Q in an electoral deal.

    “During every Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting of the PML-Q, we are told that the PPP is willing to accommodate all sitting lawmakers of the party in next general elections, meaning that the PPP will not be contesting against any of us,” said a PML-Q MNA from central Punjab. “Such a scenario would be ideal for the PML-Q candidates in next general elections, but so far there is no such guarantee from the PPP,” he said.

    The 50 PML-Q MNAs in the present National Assembly are a major source of strength for the governing PPP in its ongoing and sharpening stand-off with the PML-N. It is their support which allows Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani dare the PML-N to bring a vote of no-confidence against him if the opposition wanted a new prime minister following his conviction by the Supreme Court.

    Chaudhry Shujaat accompanied the beleaguered PM in each of his three appearances before the Supreme Court, to show that his party would stand by the PPP through thick and thin. Still, there are certain ground realities that the PML-Q leadership is aware of and trying its best to keep the political partnership intact.

    For example majority of the PML-Q MNAs have captive constituency.

    Be it Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat from Jhang, Riaz Fatiyana from Toba Tek Singh, Hamid Yar Hiraj from Khanewal, Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada from Bahawalpur or Jam Mir Muhammad Yousuf from Awaran-cum-Lasbella (Balochistan), the party nomenclature hardly matters to them. It was not PML-Q that won them National Assembly seats. It was the other way round; the party exists because of them.

    Come the next general elections, they will choose the party flag they feel suites them the most.

    A PML-Q MNA candidly but secretly admitted that he was in talks with both the PTI and PML-N and would decide close to general elections which one to choose.

    And if Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain gets the deal from President Zardari, he had been assuring party lawmakers, he would prefer to stay with the PML-Q. “I have no qualms in retaining my seat under the PML-Q,” he said.

    In Punjab, the 35 MPAs remaining with the PML-Q are said to be mulling over their political future after the 45 “likeminded” formally joined PML-N. In Balochistan, PML-Q has 19 MPAs in name only as, from day one, all of them had been acting independent of the central party leadership. Except one, all of them are part of the provincial government.

    In Sindh, the party has 11 MPAs. But former Chief Minister Sindh, Arbab Ghulam Rahim is now siding with Nawaz Sharif. It is not certain how many of the remaining 10 MPAs Chaudhry Shujaat will find interested in contesting the next election on PML-Q ticket. The party is facing a difficult task in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), too.

    There its sitting MNA and former provincial chief, Amir Muqam has left the PML-Q and joined the PML-N. The party won five seats in the KP during last general elections. Three of them are with Mr Muqam.

    It is a real hard test for Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s political acumen. In the past he came out successfully. Will his charms win him the death struggle looming large is yet to be seen?

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