Zardari makes sure Shujaat doesn’t have ‘change of heart’

Published June 14, 2022
PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari (R) called on PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on Monday in Lahore. — Screengrab via PPP Twitter
PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari (R) called on PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on Monday in Lahore. — Screengrab via PPP Twitter

LAHORE: In an apparent bid to make sure Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his associates do not change their minds and rejoin cousin Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari once again reached out to Shujaat to ensure the PML-Q chief remained a part of the coalition government.

Mr Zardari arrived here from Islamabad and went to the residence of Chaudhry Shujaat, and held an hour-long meeting with him. Shujaat’s sons, Salik and Shafay, and party leader Tariq Bashir Cheema were also present on the occasion.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the PPP said: “The (nine-party) coalition government in the Centre is standing with the PML-Q (Shujaat group) and the latter fully supports the former.”

Mr Zardari said both the MNAs of the PML-Q — Salik Hussain and Tariq Bashir Cheema — were now part of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet.

Parvez Elahi ‘trying to persuade’ PML-Q chief, sons to exit alliance with coalition govt

“PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat is an asset to our politics, and his party is with us and will continue to stay in the coalition,” Zardari maintained.

This was the second meeting between the duo within a week. PM Shehbaz and JUI-F head Maulana Fazlur Rehman had also called on Shujaat last week to ‘reaffirm his support’ for the government.

A party insider told Dawn that although the PML-Q chief had chosen to shake hands with the Sharifs against the advice of his cousin and nephew, Parvez and Moonis Elahi, the latter still believed Shujaat and group could ditch the coalition ‘at the behest of someone’ at a critical juncture owing to the huge trust deficit with the PML-N.

Despite the differences between them, there were reports that Shujaat had great regard for Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi and former federal minister Moonis, and wanted them to evolve a consensus within the family. However, the Elahi camp is not budging from its support to former premier Imran Khan.

“Mr Elahi is trying to persuade Chaudhry Shujaat and his sons to exit the coalition government and support the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman,” the insider said, adding some members of the Chaudhry family were making efforts to evolve a consensus to bring both groups (in the PML-Q) on the same page.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Salik Hussain said Mr Zardari paid a courtesy visit to their residence and formally congratulated him and Mr Cheema on becoming a part of the federal cabinet.

When asked if there were any doubts or ‘mistrust’ forcing coalition leaders like Zardari, Shehbaz and Fazl to meet Chaudhry Shujaat frequently, the minister said: “We are with the coalition as we made a commitment to it ahead of its formation. We will stand by our commitment and stay with the coalition.”

To a question about the differences among the Chaudhrys, he claimed: “As a family, we are united. Parvez sahib had also decided to go with the coalition as it was a consensus decision of the party, but later chose Imran Khan.”

Mr Zardari is also said to be actively trying to reduce tensions between Parvez Elahi and the Sharifs.

Mr Zardari had once called the PML-Q “Qatil League” after the assassination of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, but later in 2011 included the party in the then PPP government in the Centre, spinning his serious allegation as a mere ‘political statement’.

PPP senior leader Qamar Zaman Kaira had also reportedly ruled out his chances of becoming the prime minister after the disqualification of Yousuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court. The Chaudhrys had opposed Zardari’s pick of Kaira for being their rival in the Gujrat belt. “Since Zardari believes in the art of possibilities in politics he never shies away from taking any bold steps in forming alliances,” a PPP leader said.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2022

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