Nawaz-Shujat meeting

Meeting may have major impact on Central Punjab

The meeting between PML(N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif and PML(Q) President Ch Shujat Hussain could have been predicted from the time PML(N) President Mian Shehbaz Sharif, then Prime Minister, called on Ch Shujat. There was a clear division between Ch Shujat and his cousin Ch Pervez Elahi, who split with Shujat over the CM election which saw Ch Pervaiz replace Hamza Shehbaz as Punjab CM, and went into the PTI. Ch Shujat had kept on the right side of the establishment, and the split of the PML(Q) gave the Shehbaz coalition three more seats, for which the PML(Q) got two seats in the Cabinet. Ch Shujat and Mian Nawaz had old relations, Shujat having been the Interior Minister in his first three Cabinets. Their split started with the Musharraf Martial Law, during which Ch Shujat had headed the PML(Q), which attracted PML(N) and some PPP deserters, who gave Musharraf the party he had sought.

The meeting placed the politics of the new Gujrat Division in some turmoil, as the prospect of a three-way race between the PML(N), the PML(Q) and the PTI receded. It was also interesting that the PML(Q)’s separate existence was not debated, and the formula seemed to be adopted of ‘seat adjustments’. This contrasts with the way Ch Pervaiz’s faction was made to merge with the PTI. Again, it seems of a piece with the formula that Mian Nawaz followed with the MQM, as well as in Balochistan. He seems to be conciliatory to the point where he can, apparently envisaging forming a coalition to become PM rather than form a one-party government.

The problem that Ch Parvez and his son Moonis already faced has become more complicated. The PTI’s backing always meant that their main opponent would be the PML(N) candidate, but now there will not be a PML(Q) candidate to draw off votes. The PML(N) candidate will also expat the support of Ch Shujat. How exactly Ch Pervez expect to contest the election, what with he being in jail and his son abroad, is not clear. However, the PML(N) is likely to do its best to ensure that neither father or son make it to the Punjab Assembly, and for that the alliance with the PML(Q) was essential. Whether this change will change Ch Pervaiz’s mind for him about his loyalty with the PTI, to which he is sticking so far, is yet to be seen, but it will certainly force him and his son to engage is a serious rethink.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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