As Islamabad roils under political turmoil, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid is leaving no stone unturned to oust the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Led by the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, the PML-Q – a breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – is hoping to cash in on the Punjab government’s mishandling of the Model Town standoff, using it as leverage against the ruling party.
According to PML-Q insiders, the party leadership believes that “political uncertainty in the country would ultimately lead to intervention from powerful quarters at some point if the situation continues to spins out of the government’s control.”
With a minimal presence in parliament and a score to settle with the Sharif brothers, the PML-Q has thrown its weight behind Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
With Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) all set to march on the capital on August 14, pressure is mounting on Qadri as well. Having called off his long march without making substantial gains, Qadri has to ensure his supporters are not disenchanted.
Though the government has signalled its willingness to negotiate with PTI, its stance towards Qadri’s demands remains unchanged, with PML-Q waiting in the wings for the ruling party to reject demands made by the PAT chief.
According to party insiders, the PML-Q has a plan. “They [PML-Q leaders] expect a scheme to materialise, replacing the current regime with a national government, accommodating disgruntled PML-N members,” says a senior party leader.
Why PAT and not PTI?
Despite PML-Q’s links with Imran Khan, the party has jumped onto the Qadri bandwagon. The party leadership believes that throwing their weight behind PTI would be fruitless as PTI would steal the show due to its popularity and significant presence in parliament.
A senior PML-Q leader says that their [PML-Q and PAT] rally would reach Islamabad before PTI stages its show in the capital.
Though PML-Q and PAT have not finalised the plan for the proposed march, they certainly want to hold centre stage before PTI supporters reach Islamabad.
“The talks between the two hit snags over who would deliver the final speech, Dr Qadri or Imran Khan,” he added. While all eyes are on PAT and PTI, the dominant force in the apparent drive against the government –the PML-Q – has been silently working behind the scenes to ensure that the party makes an entry at the right time. Gearing up efforts, PML-Q earlier this week held a congregation of former party Nazims and ticket holders who had contested last elections, and assigned them with specific tasks ahead of August 14.
During the meeting, the party chalked out alternative routes for its supporters to join the main procession. Keeping the government’s strategy in mind, the PML-Q leadership also directed its party workers to block major roads in case they are prevented from joining the main rally.
Similarly, realigning its workers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), PML-Q has directed its provincial chapter to ensure that at least 500 people from each of the 24 provincial districts join the march.
For party workers heading to the capital from southern Punjab, where the party still wields significant influence due to its electable feudal members, the leadership has asked local leaders to gather maximum number of people and lead them to Islamabad.
As per plan, these protestors have been tasked to join Qadri’s rally in Lahore on minimum notice. It is expected that Qadri, along with these marchers, would start his journey from Lahore on August 12 or 13.
Under the existing plan the convoy is expected to spend the night in Gujrat, the hometown of Chaudhry brothers, and move on for the final showdown in the capital.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th,2014.