Even at the best of times, it is hard to tell what the Q-League is up to. Apparently taken aback by Imran Khan’s announcement that they would seek the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly in a bid to force early elections, the party has put up a brave outward face, pledging allegiance to Mr Khan’s cause.

But given the rocky road they tread to get to where they are, the Pakistan Muslim League’s ‘Elahi faction’ is having difficulty coming to terms with the possibility that they may have to part with the chief minister’s office, which they managed to obtain through toil, sweat, tears and litigation in the highest courts of the land.

But the perennially establishment-friendly party’s young face, Moonis Elahi, raised many an eyebrow in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) camp on Wednesday when he candidly revealed on Meher Bokhari’s Hum News show that it was former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa who had advised his party to support Imran Khan.

The younger Elahi’s defence of retired Gen Bajwa and the admonition of PTI criticism against him, along with the timing of the interview, are making waves among the ranks of the PTI, with many suspecting that this may be a ploy to hang on to the chief minister seat for a while longer.

While on social and mainstream media, PTI leaders and supporters are holding the former army chief responsible for toppling Imran Khan’s government, as well as all the other hardships faced by the party in recent days, Moonis has taken issue with this approach, claiming that the former army chief had gone all out in his support for PTI.

Since Gen Bajwa has now retired, Moonis regretted that he was being portrayed as a bad person. “Had he been bad, he would not have asked us to back Imran,” he claimed.

This is consistent with the line taken by his father; only a few days ago, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi had issued a show-cause notice to PTI leader Musarrat Jamshed Cheema — who is currently the Punjab government spokesperson — for speaking against Gen Bajwa in a media talk.

In addition, CM Elahi has gone on the record multiple times, praising the former army chief — even when he was not on Imran Khan’s side of the fence. An example that springs to mind is the elder Elahi’s interview with the same Meher Bokhari a few days before the vote of no-confidence, where he called on the establishment to put the baby (PTI) down and let it learn to walk, otherwise they (the establishment) would be left “changing diapers” for the rest of their days.

The PTI leadership, however, see this latest interview in the context that the politics of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat always relied on good relations with the establishment.

PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry told Dawn the politics of the Chaudhrys revolve around “permissions” from the establishment.

“The Chaudhrys have never taken any steps or decisions without getting a nod from the establishment first, nor will they ever do so,” the senator added.

PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry, however, said that Moonis had simply given his perspective on certain issues, but commended their support for Imran Khan and the PTI. “Judging decisions and relationships on past performance is irrelevant,” he added.

“Moonis Elahi and Parvez Elahi are standing unwaveringly with Imran Khan and arriving at any conclusions without context will not convey the correct meaning of a statement. The PML-Q is a strong ally of the PTI and will continue as such,” Mr Chaudhry tweeted, even as PTI supporters began assailing Moonis Elahi.

A senior PTI leader, in a recent meeting with PTI chief Imran Khan, had vociferously stated that the Chaudhrys could not be trusted, even though they have conveyed their intention to go ahead with the dissolution of the assembly on Mr Khan’s command.

Disturbed by the fact that a 10-member party was holding the post of Punjab chief minister, the PTI leader said the Chaudhrys were busy spreading their tentacles across Punjab’s politics, and referred to decisions such as expanding the scope of Gujrat division and the investment of billions of rupees in development projects.

“The Chaudhrys are assuring and re-assuring PTI that the Punjab Assembly can be dissolved on the call of Imran Khan, but at the same time they are sending messages that now is not the time to dissolve the assembly,” the party leader said.

Another PTI leader, seeking anonymity, said the Chaudhrys of Gujrat wanted to prolong their tenure in the office of chief minister to squeeze out as many funds for their division as possible, and expand their influence from Gujrat to Mandi Bahauddin and Sialkot. “Their only objective is to ensure that they should at least double their number of seats in the provincial and national assemblies, while injecting massive funds in their favoured constituencies.”

But those in CM Parvez Elahi’s camp say the PTI and PML-Q are, at the end of the day, two different parties and as such, they are allowed to have different opinions on certain issues.

As far as the former army chief is concerned, it seems that both are not on the same page.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2022

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