LAHORE: Cracks seem to be emerging in the ruling coalition partners as the hawkish Federal Information Minister,

Fawad Chaudhry, in his routine tirade against the opposition parties did not even spare an important coalition partner -- the PML-Q -- but a sharp retort from a scion of Chaudhrys of Gujrat, threatening to ‘say goodbye’ to the government, compelled the minister to tender an apology with a promise to be careful in future.

In a damage control move, however, both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its ally the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid on Wednesday played down the reports of the emerging differences, saying the matter had been “resolved amicably”.

Fawad Chaudhry, in a media talk in Karachi had said: “We could have formed forward blocs in PML-N, PML-Q and PPP but gave a favour and didn’t do so.”

Reacting strongly soon after the minister’s statement, the PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi even threatened to say goodbye to the coalition government. “Comments by Fawad Chaudhry will surely rock or (could) even dismantle this coalition. Prime Minister Imran Khan and PTI need to discipline children,” Moonis Elahi tweeted.

After the tweet, the PML-Q even hinted at taking up the matter with Premier Imran Khan and lodge a protest against the information minister. However, a ‘timely’ apology by the minister worked as PML-Q declared that it had no intention to “pursue the matter further.”

“Since Fawad Chaudhry has realised his mistake and apologised, we do not want to take this matter any further as it may benefit the opponents,” PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain said. He said although the members of PML-Q were less in number (in the assemblies) but it should be remembered that his party had been in power with a two-thirds majority.

“Governments come and go but political parties are at times in the government or the opposition. Our party had entered into alliance with the PTI in the best interests of the country,” he said, adding the country was passing through crises and instead of making personal attacks, one should be helpful in solving them. “There is a need to work together,” he added.

Playing down the controversy, Fawad Chaudhry said the misunderstanding created between the two parties after his comments had been resolved. “Actually, I said it had taken only 48 hours to convert N-League into Q,” he told Dawn. Mr Chaudhry said he had spoken to Mr Moonis and clarified.

Political circles, however, interpreted the episode as a sign that something was “cooking” in the ruling coalition, especially in Punjab where the PML-Q was an important ally with 10 MPAs. “The PTI is ruling Punjab with a tiny majority and it cannot afford to lose the PML-Q,” said a PTI insider. Similarly, in the Centre, the PML-Q had five MNAs and the PTI had a thin majority there as well, he added.

He said in Punjab the PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (Punjab Assembly speaker) had inroads both in the PTI and the PML-N and he was also capable of causing ruptures (in both parties). “Even PM Khan had tasked Mr Elahi to keep a close eye on the PML-N in the parliamentary affairs and in a difficult situation a forward bloc in the PML-N can’t be ruled out,” he said.

When asked about the differences brewing between the coalition partners, Fawad Chaudhry said: “There has been no differences between the two coalition partners on any issue.”

The minister had also claimed that a grand alliance comprising the PTI, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-P and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) would soon be formed and a forward bloc would be carved in the PPP that might turn the ruling party into a minority in the Sindh Assembly.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019