A political death foretold

March 22, 2013


Pakistan Muslim League-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain speaking to media with his brother Chaudhry Pervez Elahi. – File Photo

Last week a couple of PML-Q ministers bid farewell to their party Sheikh Waqas Akram, the former federal minister for training and education, headed straight into the anxious but welcoming arms of the PML-N while Sardar Bahadur Ahmad Sehar, the former federal minister for defence production, embraced the PPP in a slightly more low key manner.

Despite the hue and cry by the senior PML-Q leadership, which only the PPP heard, most observers predict more such departures from the Q League in the coming days.

After all, this is a disintegration foretold.

The party’s demise has been on the cards since 2008, when the PML-Q lost badly in the last elections. Put together by General Pervez Musharraf and his general colleagues, it was assumed that the party would unravel once Musharraf was no longer in power.

If it has lasted as a moth-eaten entity till now, it is only because of the PML-N’s initial disdain for accepting those who had supported its bitter enemy Musharraf and partly due to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who accepted harsh realities and joined hands with the PPP when an opportunity came along.

But PML-N’s mistakes and Chaudhry Sahib’s tactics, however brilliant, cannot rewrite fate. A party that is created by military officials and that does not do well in elections cannot last for long.

In the absence of a military godfather, those who had opted for the PML-Q will now make their way over to civilian godfathers who are capable of winning elections, forming governments and doling out perks, privileges and patronage.

But this disintegration was delayed because the PML-Q formed an alliance with the PPP in May 2011. But even then it was clear that come next elections many of its members would move on – to the PML-N and to the PPP.

Most of those would stay loyal to the Q League and the Chaudhries would be those who would not have a chance – such as Mushahid Hussain. The PPP has no use for him and it appears that the Sharifs are not ready to forgive him. But the final decision of which party to choose, depends on local politics.

Hence, Sheikh Waqas opted for the PML-N despite his relentless criticism of political parties that ally with militant organisations and promote sectarianism.

The general popularity of the PML-N in the province will help Mr Akram in the coming election in his home constituency of NA-89 (Jhang-IV). During the last election his victory was slim.

He bagged the seat by securing 51,971, while his runner up - Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhyanvi of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jumaat – got 45,216 votes. On the other hand, Sardar Sehar joined the PPP.

During the previous elections, he only managed to retain his seat with a winning margin of less than 2,000 votes. While he polled 58,797 votes as a PML-Q candidate, the runner up was Sahibzada Faizul Hassan of the PML-N who got 56,951 votes. He is still with the PML-N.

The PPP candidate in the constituency Chaudhry Altaf Hussain managed to get a healthy 46,149 votes.

What this means is that the PPP enjoys support in the constituency and this may add to Sehar’s tally this time around. At the same time, another factor that pushed Sehar towards the PPP was his family’s past association with the party. Before 2002, they were members of the PPP.

Riaz Fatiana also recently bid the Q League farewell after having won in 2008 from NA-94, Toba Tek Sing.

Mr Fatiana claimed in news reports that he left the PML-Q because of differences with its leadership. However, so far he has not joined any other party.

Mr Fatiana’s was also a close contest in 2008 - he scraped through with around 63,000 votes, whereas PPP and PML-N candidates in the same constituency managed to get about 59,000 votes. Observers point out that he too may gain if he can ensure a ticket from the PML-N, which by most accounts is the strongest force in Punjab at the moment.

Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj, another PML-Q MNA from Khanewal, is also considering options.

According to a family friend, Mr Hiraj is in contact with both the PTI and PML-N. However, because there are few chances that he will lose, he may contest as an independent candidate. What is decided, however, is his departure from the PML-Q, said the family friend.