Once bitten, twice shy Chaudhrys refuse to budge | Pakistan Today

Once bitten, twice shy Chaudhrys refuse to budge

–Pervez Elahi tells Shafqat Mahmood they won’t hold further talks until govt fulfills promises 

–Punjab Assembly speaker warms up to PML-N leadership as ties with PTI, Buzdar deteriorate 

ISLAMABAD: The gulf between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its coalition partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), is widening as the Chaudhry brothers have expressed anger over the recent decisions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, including the formation of new dialogue committees to engage the allied parties.

On Monday, the newly-constituted committee of the federal government comprising Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar met a delegation of the PML-Q led by Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi, but it failed to convince the allied party to hold talks.

Sources said that Mahmood held a separate one-on-one meeting with Elahi and conveyed him a message of Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, the PML-Q leader told the minister that further dialogues would not be possible until the implementation of the recommendations tabled by the previous dialogue committee comprising Jahangir Tareen and Pervez Khattak.

Elahi told Mahmood that he will prefer to hold a direct meeting with PM Imran, sources said, adding that the schedule of the next round of talks has not been finalised yet.

On Sunday, the PML-Q had demanded the PTI-led federal government to start implementation on the negotiated matters.

Sources in both the parties told Pakistan Today, on condition of anonymity, that although Pervez Elahi is considering expanding relations with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has advised him against taking any extreme measure.

“The major problem in an alliance between the PML-Q and PML-N is the acrimony between Elahi and Shehbaz Sharif. Moreover, the second-tier leadership of the PML-N has always been out to destroy the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, hence any alliance between the two parties looks like a distant dream. However, nothing can be ruled out in politics,” said a source in PML-Q.

The source said that Punjab CM Usman Buzdar was concerned about the widening gulf between the PTI and PML-Q as any extreme move may jeopardise his position.

According to the source, the prime minister has been briefed on the developments taking place in Punjab where Elahi has been providing a ‘friendly environment’ to the opposition leaders.

“Elahi continued the recent Punjab Assembly session summoned on the opposition’s requisition for over a week which is unprecedented in parliamentary history,” the source said, adding that “for this session, he issued production orders for Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz and ensured his presence in the House”.

“Moreover, Hamza was provided all facilities in the opposition leader’s chambers where he freely interacted with party lawmakers and friends,” the source added.

The source said that the premier had also been informed that Elahi also gave more time to the opposition lawmakers during the recent session where they severely criticised the chief minister over his ‘poor performance’ and the government’s ‘failure’ to control wheat and flour prices.

“Elahi also ignored the treasury members’ protests for giving more time to the opposition,” the source said.

Tensions between the coalition partners started to increase after the removal of former Punjab chief secretary Yousaf Nasim Khokhar and worsened after the PM Imran’s refusal to include Moonis Elahi in the federal cabinet.

The source claimed that another reason for discord between the two sides was a recent raid by Punjab Food Authority on a factory reportedly owned by Moonis Elahi’s father-in-law.

“Elahi protested against the factory raid during direct contact with CM Buzdar, but the latter refused to move against PFA. Elahi retaliated by accepting a requisition for an assembly session moved by the PML-N lawmakers despite the fact that at least 45 of them had been suspended by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for failing to submit their asset details,” the source said.

The source further said that Elahi also summoned Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Shoaib Dastageer on a privilege motion, which angered Buzdar who directed the IGP not to obey such orders.

“Buzdar reportedly also telephoned Elahi and conveyed his reservations on the issue,” the source added.

The ruling coalition has a marginal majority in the Punjab Assembly. In the House of 371 members, Buzdar needed 185.5 to get elected as chief minister while he was polled 186 votes.

In Punjab Assembly, the ruling coalition has 186 members led by the PTI which has 171 members while the PML-Q has 10 lawmakers, four lawmakers are independents while one member is from the Rahey Haq Party.

The PML-N has 165 lawmakers while the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) has seven members. Chaudhry Nisar has yet not taken oath while Chaudhry Kashif of the PML-N from Bahawalnagar has been disqualified in a fake degree case.

On the other hand, the PML-N would also be in a fix if it wants to get its nominee elected as the chief minister. With its 164 number after the disqualification of Chaudhry Kashif, the PML-N would require the support of another 22 lawmakers. Even then, the new chief minister would be in a very weak position.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at hussainmian[email protected]

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