Pakistan’s ruling party, PML-Q try to corner Nawaz Sharif

October 27th, 2010 - 11:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, Oct 27 (IANS) Two fierce critics of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) - Babar Awan of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Ch. Pervaiz Elahi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q - held a surprise meeting in Lahore that observers view as a move to frustrate the PML-N leadership.

“PML-Q is a major stakeholder in the national politics and we are meeting them to pursue the policy of consensus and reconciliation,” said Babar Awana, a federal minister of the PPP-led government.

“We had given the vote of confidence to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani with the same spirit and we are not closing our doors to anybody,” said Pervez Elahi, former chief minister of the Punjab province and stalwart of the opposition PML-Q.

Both Awan and Elahi are fierce critics of PML-Nawaz that is holding power in Punjab and is the main opposition party in the center.

The PML-N has accused Awan as a major driving force behind the follies committed by the government. Elahi, a one-time close associate of PML-N leadership, decided to part ways when Nawaz Sharif decided to go to Saudi Arabia after the military coup in 1999.

Amidst tense relations between the PML-N and the PPP allies in Punjab and the mounting pressure from Urdu-speaking MQM on PPP in the center, the numbers game could be interesting if the PPP decides to wash its hands of current allies to find new ones in PML-Q.

PML-Q had enjoyed power at the center as well as in provinces from 2002 to 2007 by striking the right chords with the then president Pervez Musharraf and were dethroned in the 2008 elections when the PPP emerged as the majority party after the assassination of its leader Benazir Bhutto.

Monday’s meeting is being viewed by several independent observers as a move to frustrate the PML-N leadership, including former premier Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, serving as chief minister of Punjab at present.

“PPP held PML-Q responsible of Benazir’s assassination in 2007 and Elahi is also named in an FIR on this charge,” analyst Ahmad Raees said Wednesday. “How can the ruling party now forget the accusations that it has been leveling against its predecessors in power,” he asked.

There have been dissenting voices from within the PML-Q. “PPP is a sinking ship and we should not allow ourselves to be used like this,” said PML-Q legislator and former federal minister Faisal Saleh Hayat.

A group of PML-Q legislators in the parliament has already distanced from the leadership and are not willing to accept this new-found love for PPP. “We will see which way the wind blows before taking a final decision,” said the chairman of the dissenting group Saleem Saifullah.

Meanwhile, the PML-N is feeling the heat and its chief Nawaz Sharif has convened a meeting of the core committee to discuss the emerging situation. If the PPP withdraws support in Punjab, the PMl-N chief minister could be asked to get a fresh vote of confidence.

When asked to comment on this apparently murky political scenario, Nawaz Sharif tried to put up a brave face. “Such meetings with a hidden agenda don’t make any difference to us,” he said. He, however, added that he had “never ruled out meeting Ch. Pervez Elahi”.

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