PML-Q: Musharraf’s brainchild fractured, failing


ISLAMABAD – A brainchild of former president Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) is hurtling towards its natural demise as it is embroiled in serious internal crises with no leader or parliamentarian committed to the Chaudhrys.
In the last three years since the PML-Q’s slow disintegration began shortly after its defeat in the 2008 elections, over a dozen blocs and interest groups with no cohesion among them – save for lack of an agenda or charismatic personality – have emerged in the former ruling party. The intra-party blocs and divisions are as follows:
Unification Bloc in Punjab – It is the formal dissident bloc in the PML-Q, which has given its allegiance to the PML-Nawaz (PML-N) and its members are in no way ready to rejoin the Chaudhrys, and with or without securing ministerial positions in the Punjab cabinet they want to secure their future political interests by contesting the next elections from the Sharifs’ platform.
Formally formed in February-March 2009, the bloc even refused to strike a power-sharing deal with the PPP which, during governor’s rule in Punjab, was striving to form a coalition government with the PML-Q. It was the Unification Bloc’s steadfastness, however, that compelled the PPP’s top brass to abort the plan of dislodging the Sharifs from their stronghold.
Bloc members and some PML-N leaders claim that in coming days, the bloc’s size will snowball further as a number of PML-Q MPAs still affiliated with the Chaudhrys are waiting in the wings to shake hands with the PML-N.
PML-Q Forward Bloc in Balochistan – The PML-Q faced its first public and political embarrassment when in 2008, despite being the majority party in the provincial assembly of Balochistan, it could not form a government and the party’s MPAs, individually or in the form of a forward bloc, clinched a power sharing deal with the PPP and elected the PPP’s Aslam Raisani as the leader of the house.
The Chaudhrys, in private meetings, have been claiming that Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, had in fact asked PML-Q MPAs to let PPP form its government because he wanted to pass a goodwill gesture to the PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
But the fact of the matter is that the Chaudhrys have permanently lost control of these MPAs from Balochistan as their recent efforts to form a coalition government in Balochistan with the help of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl have ended in a fiasco.
Pro-PML-N leaders and lawmakers – There are a number of PML-Q lawmakers – both senators and MNAs – who have a clear tilt towards joining the PML-N individually in the near or distant future, or have been asking the Chaudhrys to mend the fences with the Sharifs.
They also take the policy line on various national and political issues from the PML-N’s leadership and intend to contest the next elections on the PML-N’s ticket as well. They also cast their votes in the presidential election in favour of the PML-N candidate Justice (r) Saeeduz Zaman Siddique.
PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain also belongs to the same group that misses no opportunity in convincing the Chaudhrys to make up with the Sharifs and it is for this reason that he usually remains at odds with Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who is a strong critic of the Sharif brothers.
Senators Tariq Azeem and SM Zafar have also had a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in the recent past to bridge the gap between the two parties. Senator Syed Javed Ali Shah has had numerous open or clandestine meetings with Nawaz Sharif.
The PML-Q men (parliamentarians or non-parliamentarians) who support the idea of reunification with the PML-N are generally old Muslim Leaguers who parted ways with Nawaz Sharif because of the force of circumstances that unfolded after Musharraf’s takeover in 1999 and cannot possibly go with their ideological rival party, the PPP.
The same ones also oppose intermittent talks of the Chaudhrys with the PPP top brass and advise them to avoid joining the ruling alliance. Some PML-Q MNAs such as Riaz Pirzada, Aslam Bodla, Rana Asif Tauseef and Khadim Hussain Wattoo have a covert understanding with the PML-N.
Pro-PPP leaders and lawmakers – These PML-Q men have set their eyes on the PPP and are aspirants of its tickets for the next general elections. Some of them, though, do not want to be PPP candidates in the next polls but to secure their present interests they avoid annoying President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and in reward are provided development grants and other perks by the PPP government.
PML-Q MNAs Nawaz Allai, Sumera Malik, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Riaz Fatiana, Talib Nakai, Sadiq Khan Baloch, Hamid Yar Hirraj, Nauman Langrial, Israr Tareen, Shahnaz Sheikh and some others fall in this category. These MNAs had reportedly cast their votes for Zardari in the presidential election after having a dinner with him at Prime Minister’s House days before the election.
This group of parliamentarians always advises the Chaudhrys to not waste a day in joining the PPP-led ruling coalition. Though no circumstantial force can divide the Chaudhry brothers like the Sharifs, it is a familiar fact that Pervaiz Elahi is counted among the pro-PPP group while party sources claim Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain still has a soft corner for his estranged bedfellows, the Sharifs.
Pro-Musharraf leaders and parliamentarians – Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani, Nisar Memon, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Marvi Memon and Sumera Malik were the first ones who had advised Musharraf in April-May 2008 to remove the Chaudhrys from the PML-Q’s top command.
On the Chaudhrys’ point-blank refusal to give up the party’s leadership, they convinced Musharraf in his last months as president to launch his own party and it was this proposal that culminated in the formation of the All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) on October 1, 2010.
Sher Afgan Niazi, Chaudhry Shahbaz, Khurshid Kasuri, Dr Amjad, Lala Nisar, Arbab Ghulam Rahim and some other PML-Q leaders are now part of Musharraf’s kitchen cabinet, while others who found no space in either the PPP or the PML-N such as Marvi Memon, Prince Mohiuddin and Nisar Memon are eagerly awaiting Musharraf’s homecoming.
Some other PML-Q leaders such as Ameer Muqam and Raza Hayat Hirraj keep on swinging from the Chaudhrys to Musharraf according to their needs and moods.
PML-Likeminded – The PML-Likeminded was formed when the Chaudhrys, in July 2009, rejected Musharraf’s advice of putting off intra-party elections for a year so that a two-year legal bar on his entrance into politics could end.
On Musharraf’s request, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Khurshid Kasuri and some other confidants of Musharraf challenged the legitimacy of the PML-Q intra-party polls in 2009 and launched the PML-Likeminded so that the former military dictator could be provided a platform upon his re-entrance into the political arena.
Later on, when the two-year ban ended on November 30, 2009, the internal dynamics of the PML-Likeminded had changed and on resistance from the Saifullahs, Musharraf was refused the leadership of the party and consequently launched the APML.
The PML-Likeminded is also facing internal divisions like its parent party – the PML-Q – as some of its members have a tilt towards the PPP while others, most prominently Senator Salim Saifullah, Humayon Akhtar Khan and Kashmala Tariq, want to reconcile with the PML-N and a few such as Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Khurshid Qasuri, Hamid Nasir Chattha still accept Musharraf as their leader.
Sindh Awami Alliance – Opposing the nomination of Ghous Bux Mehar for the PML-Q’s Sindh chapter presidency by the Chaudhrys in July 2009, a number of former provincial ministers and party leaders formed a dissident bloc named Sindh Awami Alliance.
The prominent members of the alliance include Liaquat Jatoi, Asghar Shah, Maqbool Shaikh, Murad Shah, Salim Jan Mazari, Altaf Unnar, Irfanullah Marwat, Sadaqat Jatoi and Ali Nawaz Maher. One day the alliance starts negotiations with the PML-N’s Ghous Ali Shah and the next it shows its affiliation with the PML-Likeminded.
Chaudhrys loyalists (Family and Friends): The Chaudhrys’ loyalists are few and far between and most of them come from the Chaudhrys’ clan and family and one can say with some surety that they would never ever disassociate themselves from them. Former Attock nazim Tahir Sadiq and his family, the Cheemas from Sialkot and Sargodha, Raja Basharat from Rawalpindi and a few former senators such as Dilawar Abbas can be placed on the list of Chaudhry loyalists.
Military dictator lovers – A number of PML-Q’s incumbent or former senators or MNAs have no interest in the PML-N, PPP, PML-Q or another party and have set their sights on the arrival of “the next military dictator”.
In this group, a few have a firm belief that political parties and democratic dispensation cannot steer the country out of crises while others wish for a military coup on their individual political compulsions.