SITUATIONER: Polls may exact heavy price from divided Chaudhrys

Published June 26, 2022
This file photo shows PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (left) and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi. — AFP/File
This file photo shows PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (left) and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi. — AFP/File

THE split among the Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat appears all but official now. However, political pundits believe it may not last long and the veteran politicians may yet reunite after the next general elections.

After a fresh onslaught launched by Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain against his elder brother and party president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s sons for joining hands with the Sharifs and Zardaris, PML-Q leaders see the divide among the Chaudhrys as having gone to the point of no return. A reunion is not in sight, at least not in the foreseeable future, they insist.

Shujaat’s cousin, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi who remains allied with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, appears to have completed his homework to launch a new party — Muslim League Pakistan — as he could not persuade Shujaat, with whom he has played a decades-long political inning, to give up his ‘newfound love’ for the Sharifs.

Read: Young blood to blame for split among Chaudhrys?

“The strength of the Chaudhrys’ politics has been their unity. A division will not bode well for them in the coming elections in the Gujrat belt,” believes a party insider.

Mr Elahi is believed to have more political influence in the Gujrat belt as compared to Shujaat, and with the support of Wajahat who has his own political clout there, it is likely the new party may replace the PML-Q conveniently.

Parvez Elahi, who is also the Punjab Assembly speaker, still enjoys the backing of all 10 MPAs of the PML-Q in the house. Mr Zardari, reportedly through Mr Shujaat, had approached the party’s lawmakers to support Hamza Shehbaz, but they refused.

“During his recent visit to Lahore, Zardari called on Hamza and discussed ways to ‘contain’ Elahi in Punjab, as he not only compelled the PML-N government to hold its own Punjab Assembly session to present and pass the province’s budget for 2022-23, but also pushed the Hamza administration into litigation over the ‘controversial’ election of the chief minister, governor’s ordinance to clip the speaker’s powers, etc.”

Hamza’s only hope for retaining his office and handling Elahi is a ‘favourable’ outcome of the July 17 by-polls on 20 seats in Punjab that fell vacant after the election commission de-seated dissident PTI lawmakers for voting for the PML-N candidate in the chief minister’s election. The PTI and the PML-Q’s Elahi camp are confident they will grab most of the seats as people would reject the ‘turncoats’.

Differences among the Chaudhrys — Shujaat, Elahi and Wajahat — and their sons started surfacing when the ruling coalition, spearheaded by the PML-N and PPP, approached the PML-Q back in February with a ‘lucrative package’, including the chief minister’s office, ministries both in the Centre and Punjab and future seat adjustments with PML-N in exchange for withdrawing their support for Imran Khan and helping them oust him from the office of prime minister through a no-confidence motion.

While Elahi and Wajahat, and their sons MNAs Moonis Elahi and Hussain Elahi, respectively, preferred to maintain their alliance with the PTI, Shujaat’s sons — Salik and Shafay — chose to side with the ruling coalition along with two other party MNAs. MNA Salik Hussain has also been inducted into Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet.

There was a lot of discussion in the Elahi camp on the option of joining Imran Khan’s party, but no consensus was reached and it was decided to instead quit the PML-Q and launch a new party, as the speaker and his associates did not want to lose their independent identities.

“Consultations for launching a new political party, the Muslim League Pakistan headed by Mr Elahi, have almost been completed,” Mian Imran Masood, a senior leader from the Elahi camp, told Dawn.

Mr Masood claimed most of the PML-Q lawmakers and office-bearers backed Mr Elahi’s decision to remain allied with the PTI, which was also endorsed by workers from the Chaudhrys’ bastion of Gujrat.

“Efforts to keep the PML-Q united are not bearing any fruit, as its MNAs Tariq Basheer Cheema and Salik Hussain have assured Zardari of their long-term support,” he further said.

Elahi’s son Moonis, who is close to Chaudhry Shujaat, is reportedly making last-ditch efforts to keep the family united, but they aren’t yielding any positive results.

Another senior party leader said the Muslim League House in Lahore had already been registered under the name of Parvez Elahi, who was also holdings its possession.

On the other hand, Chaudhry Wajahat has held federal minister Tariq Bashir Cheema responsible for the rift within the PML-Q, while his son Hussain Elahi has blamed Asif Zardari and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif for the split.

Hussain Elahi told party workers on Saturday that he and his father firmly stood with Parvez and Moonis Elahi, and would not let anybody disturb their unity.

Shujaat’s other younger brother Shafaat Hussain, a former Gujrat district nazim, has already distanced himself from the PML-Q and announced to contest the next elections from NA-69 Gujrat — the seat currently being held by his nephew and former federal minister Moonis Elahi.

On the development, Shujaat reacted on Saturday in a statement, saying: “What difference does it make if one more political party is established?”

But the PML-Q president, who has never admitted to the differences among the family, termed the allegations levelled by his younger brother Wajahat against his sons (Salik and Shafay) of seeking dollars from PPP leader Asif Zardari “baseless and absurd”.

Explaining why he chose to be a part of the nine-party coalition government, the veteran politician said: “I honoured the commitment (made to Zardari) that is why my son (Salik) and party MNA Cheema voted for Shehbaz Sharif in the election for the prime minister. My son had not sought any ministry in return.”

He also tweeted that his sons were silent over all the allegations only because he had asked them to.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2022

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