Threatened by allies and enemies alike, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party publicly opened dialogue with the internally-fractured Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid – which is still, on paper, the third largest party in the Centre with a crucial 52 seats.
The dialogue also has great political relevance for the Punjab government, which is run by the PML-N. The PML-Q on paper has over 80 seats in the provincial assembly.
The top leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) sent Law Minister Babar Awan for a meeting with Chaudhry Pervez Elahi in Lahore on Monday. The meeting, held under the media spotlight, is being seen as a calculated move on the part of both the parties — the beleaguered PPP, which is seeking new allies to save its fragile coalition government in the centre, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), which is seeking space for itself in the PML-N run Punjab.
It is not the first time that the two parties have met and discussed ‘matters of mutual interest’, because in the past their representatives had tried to keep their previous contacts out of the limelight.
On Monday, there was first a one-on-one meeting between Pervez Elahi and Babar Awan, which was followed by the latter’s general meeting with other PML-Q leaders, giving an impression that they were giving some final touches to some political arrangement in the near future.
The two sides came up with a common message – that they believed in reconciliation and coexistence.
“We recognise the mandate of the PML-Q in Punjab,” Awan remarked in an apparent signal that the PPP might be seeking a political alliance with the PML-Q in Punjab to put up a joint front against the province’s ruling party, the PML-N. He did not elaborate what kind of “mandate” he was referring to. The PML-Q is seats-wise also the third-largest party in the Punjab provincial government.
“The doors for negotiations are never shut in politics,” was the message from Pervaiz Elahi after the meeting.
The PPP has been facing a hostile attitude from different quarters, including its own allies, such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, without whose support it cannot maintain its simple majority government in the centre. With the PML-Q on board, that equation would change.
Though the PPP is in alliance with the PML-N in Punjab, it had been an odd coalition from day one.
The PPP had made an abortive attempt to topple the PML-N government in Punjab a year ago and there is an impression that the fresh contacts might be aimed at achieving the same goal.
Sources said that the two sides had met tacitly in August this year to chalk out a joint strategy, but events on the national stage stalled talks.
Also on the minds of PPP policymakers would be the buzz of an imminent alliance of various factions of the Pakistan Muslim League.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2010.
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