LAHORE: The efforts to bring the Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat back on the same page do not seem to be bearing fruit so far, as the sons of PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain have declared they will maintain their alliance with the party of the Sharifs.
Shujaat’s sons -- federal minister Salik Hussain and Shafay Hussain -- called on Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz at his office here on Monday, announcing their “full support” to the PML-N-led federal government and reassured that their political alliance would continue in the future as well.
Hamza also inquired after Mr Shujaat and expressed good wishes for him.
While Chaudhry Parvez Elahi had chosen to side with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) by rejecting the Sharif brothers’ offer for the Punjab chief minister’s slot, his cousin, Shujaat, preferred to shake hands with the PML-N. Soon after, the PML-Q president’s son, Salik, was inducted into the Shehbaz Sharif cabinet along with another party MNA, Tariq Bashir Cheema.
PML-Q president’s son Salik meets CM Hamza, assures him of ‘full support’
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had earlier claimed that Moonis Elahi, who was a part of the Imran Khan cabinet, was responsible for the PML-Q failing to cut a deal with the Sharifs as Moonis wanted his family to support Imran (in his testing times). Even Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had said he wanted Mr Elahi as the Punjab CM, but things didn’t work out.
The Hamza-Salik-Shafay meeting is being seen in the context of the PML-N’s ongoing efforts to ensure that in case a plan is orchestrated by ‘some quarters’ to oust the Shehbaz government in the changing political scenario, all ‘doubtful’ allies, including the PML-Q’s Shujaat camp and the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), should be kept in check.
The nine-party coalition government in the Centre is surviving with a slim majority of two votes (174). Both Moonis and Sheikh Rashid of the Awami Muslim League have predicted the coalition would soon lose its majority. Speculation is rife that President Arif Alvi could ask PM Sharif to take a vote of confidence from parliament whenever certain powerful quarters ‘decide’ to allow fresh polls.
A source privy to the development says since Mr Salik has been made a federal minister, he appears to be the main stumbling block in bridging the differences between the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. “Mr Elahi’s camp wants Chaudhry Shujaat’s sons to part ways with the PML-N-led coalition and join hands with Imran Khan whose popularity, it believes, is through the roof. But Salik is not budging,” he says.
Although the Sharifs had reached out to the Chaudhrys after a 14-year hiatus to convince them to support the then opposition before the no-confidence resolution was moved against former premier Khan, the ‘huge trust deficit’ between the two sides forced Mr Elahi to choose otherwise. Mr Elahi was of the view that the Sharifs had ditched the Chaudhrys on at least three occasions in the past.
Mr Moonis is also a strong opponent of the Sharifs, especially Hamza -- whom he deems a ‘fake CM’ and wants him to have the moral courage and take a vote of confidence or go for a run-off election (for the CM) after losing majority in the Punjab Assembly in the wake of de-seating of 25 dissident PTI MPAs.
Moonis’s cousin, MNA Hussain Elahi of the PML-Q -- the son of former federal minister Wajahat Hussain, has chosen to stay with the Elahi camp. He, too, believes it will be unwise to join the Sharifs at a time when the future belongs to the PTI because of the supposed rising popularity of Imran Khan and the ‘untrustworthy history’ of the Sharifs.
If this division within the Chaudhry family continues to exist till the next polls, there are chances the Chaudhry Shujaat camp may contest from the PML-N platform.
Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2022