LAHORE: The two main factions of Pakistan Muslim League – PML-N and PML-Q – appear to be warming up to each other.
On Sunday, an overture from Nawaz Sharif for the PML-Q leadership brightened up the chances of a rapprochement between the two parties ahead of the next parliamentary vote.
Nawaz said that he was willing to take the PML-Q leadership back into the party fold, if they apologised to the nation for supporting a military dictator (Pervez Musharraf). But Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the PML-Q president, asked Nawaz to tender an apology first as he ‘rode into politics on the back of a military dictator’.
Welcoming Marvi Memon, a PML-Q dissident, into the PML-N at a news conference at his Raiwind estate, Nawaz called her a pragmatic politician and said that she could win a seat in the next parliamentary elections from anywhere in the country.
Asked when he would invite the PML-Q leadership – Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to rejoin the PML-N – Nawaz said, “For this to happen, they will have to apologise to the nation for supporting a dictator.”
But Shujaat hit back, blaming the ‘Sharif brothers’ instead for inviting former dictator Gen Ziaul Haq to address the Punjab Assembly session in the 1980s. “They (the Sharif brothers) should apologise first before asking for our apology,” Shujaat told journalists in Lahore.
He ruled out the possibility of his party joining the PML-N from which it had branched off following the October 1999 coup. However, he added in a reconciliatory tone that his party would not “slam the doors shut on negotiations with any political party”.
Although the PML-N is said to be keeping in touch with PML-Q dissidents – including Humayun Akthar, Shaikh Rashid Ahmed and Ejazul Haq – the party has yet not tried to woo the Chaudhrys. Sources, however, say that PML-Q General Secretary Mushahid Hussain Sayed has been discussing a possible merger of the two leagues with PML-N leaders for quite some time now. Sources say that Sharif’s latest conditional offer indicates that he’s willing to take them back in his party.
Interestingly enough, while Nawaz called for the Chaudhrys’ apology before taking them back in his party, no such condition was set for Marvi Memon, who was also a part of Musharraf’s team during his nine-year long rule.
Marvi appeared to be defending her support for Musharraf. “But in the last three years I’ve got to know the politics of the establishment and decided to part ways (with PML-Q). I’ve learnt a lesson,” she said.
Marvi said that she was impressed with the PML-N’s fight against Musharraf for democracy. “And now I feel honoured to be a part of the PML-N,” she added.
Marvi was rumoured to be more inclined towards Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf while she was in a limbo after quitting the PML-Q. At Sunday’s news conference, however, she criticised Khan as an “arrogant man who is making unrealistic promises of a change”.
Marvi is likely to be assigned the task of projecting PML-N’s liberal image. However, Nawaz said his party hasn’t made a decision about the portfolio of Marvi. “Besides what she has asked for, she will also be asked to look after the party’s affairs in Sindh,” he said. Marvi is reported to have shown interest in working for women’s rights and the youth affairs.
Reaction to Gilani’s statement
Asked about Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s statement that ‘no caretaker or chair-taker will come into Pakistan now’, Nawaz said that his party was only opposed to the ill-advised decisions of the PPP-led coalition government. He added that if Gilani didn’t want to be remembered as a good prime minister, he should at least respect his office.
The PML-N chief also defended his party’s support for the 20th Constitutional Amendment which, according to him, guarantees a neutral caretaker set-up and an independent election commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2012.
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