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LAHORE, Aug 3: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s special visit to Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Syed Asif Hashmi’s residence surprised many, including some PPP loyalists.

Many PPP and PML-Q’s prominent personalities including Deputy Prime Minister Pevaiz Elahi called on the premier at the Governor’s House during his two-day stay but Mr Ashraf preferred seeing Hashmi at his place.

A PPP leader told Dawn Mr Ashraf had paid a visit to Hashmi’s residence on the ‘direction’ of his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani. He said as Mr Hashmi remained the blue-eyed boy of Mr Gilani, the present premier’s visit gave a message to the party men how important this man was for him (Ashraf) as well.

Mr Hashmi lost a National Assembly seat from Shahdara in 2008 election.

Talking to reporters there, the prime minister said the next election would be free and fair and the PPP would win it. “We won the by-poll in Multan against united opposition. In the next election we will win in Lahore too,” he said. Mr Ashraf said the power crisis would improve in the coming days. Asked whether he would be the prime minister on his next visit to Lahore, he responded with a smile.

Earlier, at a meeting with Pervaiz Elahi, the prime minister said the PPP-PML-Q alliance would emerge as the biggest electoral force in the next general election. “The alliance is based on mutual trust and respect and it is moving forward.”

He said steps were being taken to overcome the energy crisis.

Pervaiz Elahi expressed gratitude to Mr Ashraf for his sentiments that “Chaudhries of Gujrat have rendered extraordinary services for the protection of democracy”.

He also welcomed Mr Ashraf’s announcement that the PML-Q was a major ally of the PPP and it would neither be ignored nor denied rightful position on any occasion and that it would continue seeking guidance from wisdom and statesmanship of Shujaat Hussain.

The prime minister also assured Pervaiz Elahi that the PML-Q parliamentarians would be given development funds equal to those of the PPP MPAs and both parties would contest the next general election together.