Chaudhrys secure power-sharing deal with ruling PPP


The Chaudhrys of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) overcame tough resistance from within the party on Thursday night as they seemingly secured a power-sharing deal with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, in which the PPP top command not only offered 12 to 15 ministerial posts to the PML-Q, but also assured the latter of 4 to 6 Senate seats in the upcoming elections of the upper house of parliament, as well as seat adjustments in the next general elections.
PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, along with his cousin Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, met President Zardari to work out the nuances of the deal and, according to a source, asked the PPP co-chairman to make the PPP’s offer absolutely clear so that they could take their party leaders and lawmakers into confidence and address their apprehensions before formally announcing their inclusion in the ruling coalition. They also presented their party’s charter of demands to Zardari.
“President Zardari told the Chaudhrys that since there was no constitutional provision for the position of deputy prime minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi could be made senior minister with authorities equivalent to deputy prime minister,” said the source, adding that Zardari also told the PML-Q leaders that the portfolio of Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar could also be changed to Water and Power in order to accommodate Elahi or another PML-Q parliamentarian on the post.
The source said that the Chaudhrys demanded the portfolios of finance, privatisation, communication and water and power from the PPP government. “President Zardari said in response that the PML-Q could get some slots of federal ministers and some slots of ministers of states for portfolios related to economy and planning,” said the source. “It was also decided between the leadership of two parties that under the seat adjustment formula for the next general elections, both parties would not field their candidates against each other’s parliamentarians and the leaders affected by this deal would be accommodated in the Senate,” the source added.
President Zardari was reluctant to give Punjab’s governorship to the PML-Q, said the source, but assured the Chaudhrys that their party would have full say in the formation of the upcoming budget. “President Zardari also assured the Chaudhrys that the PPP was ready to form a coalition government with the Q-League in Punjab if both parties succeeded in winning back the support of the Unification Bloc,” said the source, adding that the president also pledged that he would return PML-Q defectors in the Balochistan Assembly to the Chaudhrys, provided that this step did not destabilise Aslam Raisani’s government.
The source said that the Chaudhrys also asked Zardari to ensure the withdrawal of criminal cases against PML-Q leaders in Sindh and Balochistan and stop their victimisation immediately. “The Chaudhrys told Zardari that they had almost convinced the MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) to rejoin the federal cabinet while the JUI-F (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl) was sticking to its guns on not becoming part of the ruling coalition,” said the source, adding that the Chaudhrys told Zardari that they would give a final answer on the PPP’s offer after sharing details of the written deal with their party leaders.
The source said that in a consultation meeting earlier on Thursday, which the Chaudhrys had called to calm opponents of the PPP-PML-Q alliance, particularly senators and women parliaments on reserved seats, most PML-Q senators and women parliamentarians vehemently opposed the party’s move, saying that the PPP, which had previously ditched its coalition partners Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), MQM and JUI-F, could not be trusted. PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain did not attend the meeting and embarked upon his visit to China after facing disappointment in his efforts to stop the PML-Q leadership from going ahead with the deal.
“Senator SM Zafar asked whether it would be possible for the PML-Q to force the PPP leadership to give respect to the Supreme Court and shun corruption. Challenging the Chaudhrys’ theory that the PML-Q’s coalition with the government would help resolve the people’s problems, Zafar questioned what would be the guarantee that the PPP would listen to its advice once it became coalition partner, and mend its ways,” said the source, adding that Zafar said that PML-Q’s decision of joining government would help the PML-N become a real opposition and in the current scenario, the Sharifs could turn the tables on both parties.
The source said that the senators told the Chaudhrys that Zardari and the PPP government would not give a free hand to the PML-Q, hence the party would not be able to introduce its planned reforms. In response, Shujaat and Elahi told the parliamentarians that they were taking the step after being disappointed with the Sharifs, who had closed all doors to the unification of PML factions.
PML-Q MNA Shahnaz Sheikh, however, fully supported the idea. “Senator Niolfar Bakhtiar advised the PML-Q leadership to join the government in the form of an alliance with the MQM and JUI-F and on the condition of the implementation of a common agenda jointly prepared by three parties.
She said in case the PPP government backtracked on its commitment to the implementation of the agenda, the three-party alliance should quit the government,” said the source. “At one stage, when Marvi Memon strongly opposed the power-sharing deal, Pervaiz Elahi snubbed her by saying that she was the one who was trying to dislodge a sitting PML-Q MNA Ayaz Ali Sherazi from his constituency in Thattha,” the source said, adding that Shujaat and Elahi told Marvi that Sherazi had complained about her numerous times.
Nosheen Saeed told Pakistan Today that she had advised the Chaudhrys that Zardari was an unreliable politician.