Rare contact: First Nawaz phone call to Shujaat in a decade

Aide says PM tried to neutralise threat of joint opposition protest.

Irfan Ghauri July 31, 2014


In a bid to neutralise the possibility of a joint protest by the opposition, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approached the Chaudhrys of Gujrat for the first time in over a decade, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“Nawaz Sharif made a telephonic contact with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain just before Ramazan and invited him for a meeting,” a close aide of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader said. “Shujaat told him that he would respond after consulting his colleagues.”

However, Prime Minister Nawaz’s decision to contact Shujaat for the first time since his government was toppled in a military coup in 1999 bore no fruit and the PML-Q leader never returned the premier’s call.

The Chaudhrys of Gujrat have been playing a pivotal role in launching a movement against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. With the alleged backing of some covert forces, they have been playing a crucial role in coalescing opposition parties for the movement. Chaudhry Shujaat, in particular, has been involved in hectic efforts to launch such a movement.

According to sources, the PML-Q leader was tasked by Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri – who joined hands with the Chaudhrys in June – to contact other parties and convince them to join his self-proclaimed ‘revolution’. Reportedly, Shujaat also played a role in bridging differences between Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tahirul Qadri’s PAT.

It is understood that the premier’s invitation to Shujaat for a meeting was a bid to woo the PML-Q away from the PAT and weaken any protest movement against his government.

Chaudhry Shujaat and his cousin Chaudhry Pervez Elahi were once part of the Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League (PML). They developed differences with Nawaz after he favoured his brother Shahbaz Sharif for the office of Punjab chief minister following the 1997 elections. The Chaudhrys felt betrayed since they had reportedly been promised the top slot.

Later, under then military ruler Pervez Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat’s PML faction ruled the country from 2002 to 2007. They also joined the coalition government of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which was defeated by the PML-N in the 2013 elections.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.

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