PML-Q: election time or defection time
ISLAMABAD: With the general elections round the corner, political parties are busy hunting for candidates and allies to secure the maximum number of seats in the federal and provincial legislatures.
All except the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q), though, the most urgent task for the third largest political party in the National Assembly is to keep its identity intact.
Right now the PPP has 125 seats, the PML-N 90 and the PML-Q 50 seats in the parliament, and if the rumour mill is to be believed, the PML-Q will witness a significant exodus than new entrants in the upcoming elections.
For the last two years, PML-Q managed to stay on the political radar after the Chaudhrys of Gujrat aligned with President Asif Ali Zardari in May, 2011, in the federal government. The irony that its only hope is President Zardari is hard to ignore given that the party that had virtually been cobbled together by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, before the 2002 general elections.
In the last week, there have been regular meetings between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PML-Q leaderships in Lahore and Islamabad to weigh their options of going into the next election as electoral allies.
Outwardly, the leadership of the two parties have pledged to stick together, but party sources are not painting a rosy picture for the PML-Q.
“Regardless of the party’s present 50 seats in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who head the party in the centre and Punjab respectively, are facing a possibility of a white-wash even before elections are held,” said an insider.
One PML-Q lawmaker who has decided to go into the next polls as an independent candidate told Dawn that it was just a matter of time when the majority of the party’s sitting lawmakers left for “greener pastures”. According to his assessment, the Chaudhrys would be lucky if they manage to even field ten or so present MNAs in the next elections.
“The party’s only chance of survival at the moment is linked to the president and co-chairman of the PPP, Mr Zardari, but that too if he accepts the number of seats that the PML-Q is demanding. Only last week, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi claimed that the PML-Q will contest elections from 75 National Assembly seats and over 100 provincial constituencies, but that is too large a share for the PPP leadership to spare for the PML-Q,” he added.
On the other hand, the PML-Q leaders in recent talks have accused the PPP leadership of creating splits between its ranks by urging the party’s electable candidates to contest elections on the arrow — the party symbol of the PPP. Fearing large-scale defections, after the announcement of election date, Chaudhry Shujaat is said to have sought assurances from the PPP that none of its current MNAs would be allowed to join the ruling party.
PPP leaders though argue that candidates should be allowed to choose the party of their liking or they will go to the opposition parties.
“I have a secure constituency, and have yet to decide whether I have to stay with the PML-Q, join the PPP or contest elections as an independent candidate,” observed another PML-Q member of the National Assembly as he mulled over his options for the next elections.
“Everybody knows that the PML-Q’s days are over, so instead of sticking to it, people are eyeing mainstream political parties such as the PML-N, the PPP, and for all we know, even the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf has a far better chance in the upcoming polls,” he added.
When a senior office-bearer of the PML-Q was asked to comment about the dire situation that the party may be forced to face, he replied: “The party leadership is hopeful of striking a good deal with the PPP leadership because the Chaudhrys had supported President Zardari through difficult times.”
“In May 2011, when the PML-Q joined the coalition government, the ruling party was facing a number of challenges including its face-off with the judiciary and security establishment, but the Chaudhrys stood by him. Now its time for the PPP leaders to reciprocate our good efforts,” the PML-Q leader opined.
He did admit that anything was possible in politics and one can never be too sure about electoral allies.
“We are trying our level best to form an alliance with the PPP, and let’s see how that works out,” he commented.