Tuesday Jan 21, 2020
In the last 17 months, since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) pulled out a victory in the national polls, it has had a troubled relationship with its allies: the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Balochistan National Party – Mengal (BNP-M).
Too often, fissures and rifts within the coalition are made public, deliberately, in order to send the ruling party scrambling. Federal ministers, and even the prime minister, are seen hopping from city to city trying to patch ties with those who want to drive a hard bargain.
In Punjab, the PTI needs the PML-Q, if it wants its provincial government and its chief minister to stay in office.
Prior to the election, the PML-Q, headed by the Chaudhry brothers, finalized an agreement with the PTI. As per the settlement, the Q league will be given two federal ministries, the position of speaker in the Punjab assembly and two provincial ministries in Punjab. Furthermore, there will be no interference in the working of three districts of the province under its control.
The PTI agreed, but delivered on only half the promises. At the moment, Chaudhry Tahir Bashir Cheema, the secretary general of the PML-Q, who won from Bahawalnagar, is a minister in the federal cabinet. That means, one ministry has yet to be delivered to PML-Q in the capital.
Now if those privy to the developments are to be believed, the ministry is ready to be presented on a silver platter, but what has thrown a spanner in the works is the in-fighting within the PML-Q.
Who of the three cousins, sitting in the parliament, will be made federal minister? Tough question.
The Chaudhrys are a hereditary political dynasty. This election saw the third generation of the family step up to make their way into the power corridors.
The three men are: Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s son Chaudhry Salik Hussain, Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain’s son Hussain Elahi, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s son Moonis Elahi. All three are cousins. All three are members of the national assembly.
Moonis Elahi has been politically active since the last 12 years in Lahore, Mandi Bahauddin and Gujrat. From 2008 to 2018, he was the first of the Chaudhry family’s third generation to contest a national election.
In 2008 he lost from Lahore, but won a provincial seat from Gujrat, his hometown. In 2013, he was elected member of the provincial assembly from Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin. However, he was voted in as an MNA for the first time, in a by-election, in 2018.
His father, Pervaiz Elahi, contested and bagged the national constituencies in Chakwal and Gujrat. But gave up both to keep his provincial seat, in order to be named the speaker of the Punjab assembly. The seats he abandoned, were then picked up by his son, Moonis, and his nephew, Salik Hussain, in by-polls.
Workers and supporters of the PML-Q hold Moonis in high regard for his political struggle, especially during the days when the rival, Pakistan Muslim League-N, was in power in Punjab. Even in those testing times, they say, Moonis pulled out a victory, twice, from the province.
Up against Moonis is Salik Hussain, the successor of his father Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a mammoth political personality in Pakistan. Sources say Moonis and Salik are not on the best of terms socially.
In recent years, Shujaat Hussain’s health has deteriorated drastically, which is why he holds no position in the current setup. Workers insist that since Pervaiz Elahi’s family has one official slot, the other, therefore the federal ministry, should go to Shujaat Hussain’s son.
This brings us to the third contender, Wajahat Hussain’s son Hussain Elahi. The 26-year-old contested the polls for the first time in 2018 from his father’s constituency. Observers say that the election was a difficult one for the young politician. In 2013, the Chaudhry family had lost this seat of the National Assembly.
Elahi struggled to garner support, but in the end succeeded in getting over 100,000 votes in Gujrat. Hussain Elahi was applauded in party circles for not taking the easy route and contesting already secure constituencies in a by-election, like his cousins.
The PML-Q may be known for many things, but it is not known for making public its internal squabbling. In the past, it has managed to solve all outstanding issues with an understanding of sorts.
The political dynasty began with Shujaat Hussain’s father, Zahoor Elahi. In the later years, cousins, Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi, have been careful to guard each other’s backs in politics.
In 1985, one was federal minister, while the other was in the provincial cabinet. In 1988, one was MNA, and the other MPA. Later, one was speaker Punjab assembly, while the other was minister of interior.
During Musharraf’s tenure, one cousin was MNA, one was nazim in Punjab, one was chief minister Punjab and the fourth was prime minister, albeit temporarily. When the Pakistan People’s Party came to power, one cousin was deputy prime minister, one was federal minister and one was senator.
According to sources, both Moonis and Salik are the top contenders for the second federal ministry. Moonis is insisting that if not him then Hussain Elahi should be made minister, instead of Salik.
Now, will one cousin step down, while the other one steps up? Will the third generation of Chaudhrys maintain the family tradition of resolving all issues with an “understanding” or will they set their own traditions? That remains to be seen.