PML-Q sets terms to join federal government
By Zulqernain Tahir
LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Q is reported have decided in principle to join the federal government, but it has asked the PPP leadership to also take the MQM and JUI-F on board and form a “national reconciliation government” for the sake of security and prosperity of the country.
According to sources, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has conveyed to President Asif Ali Zardari his party’s “conditions” for joining the government.
President Zardari invited the Chaudhrys of Gujrat last month to join the federal government and play a ‘strong’ role of opposition in Punjab along with the PPP. Chaudhry Shujaat had told the president that he would respond to his offer after having consultations with office-bearers of his party, senators, MNAs and MPAs.
According to a senior PML-Q leader, if the MQM and JUI-F agreed to rejoin the government, “our party will seek at least five to seven ministries, a deputy prime minister or Punjab’s governorship”.
He said an extensive exercise was carried out within the party to solicit opinion on the issue. Those in favour of joining the government said it would help unite the party. They thought that getting important ministries would help strengthen the party and improve its position in the next elections, especially in rural areas of Punjab where it already enjoyed good support.
“In case the local body elections are held, the position of the PML-Q ticket-holders will be far better in the presence of its federal ministers or a governor. It will also help prevent influential people in the rural areas from joining other political parties or groups,” says a report prepared by the party after the consultations.
It says the supporters of the proposal believe that seat adjustments with the PPP or other parties will be easier to negotiate.
“After joining the government, the PML-Q will not only consolidate its position but also pose a big challenge to the PML-N which otherwise is comfortable with the present status of the Q. Our ‘runaway’ legislators (turncoats) will also start thinking about getting back to the party once they see us on a strong footing.”
The report says a majority of PML-Q members want the chief minister to be from their party after the next general elections.
“After joining the government we will be in a position to secure a good number of seats in Punjab which will be a guarantee for getting important posts.”
According to report, there is a general opinion in the party that if it does not join the PPP government the PML-N will give it a telling blow in the next elections. “The PML-N will never want the PML-Q to join hands with the PPP before the next elections.”
However, no-one in the party wants any effort to be made to get the Punjab government from the PML-N.
Those not in favour of joining the government say the main beneficiary of the deal will be the PPP because during the remaining period of its term it will face no threat from any of its other coalition partners or the opposition.
“The Q may lose its identity once it becomes part of the PPP set-up. The MNAs failing to get ministries may defect to other parties,” the report says.But the sources said such negative observations made by a few people did not impress the leadership.
Former chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is interested in the post of deputy prime minister, but legal experts say it is not possible to create this office without a constitutional amendment which requires a two-third majority.
Eminent lawyer and former law minister S. M. Zafar said there was no position of deputy prime minister in the Constitution.
“However, like senior minister, the slot of deputy prime minister can be that of administrative nature without any powers,” he added.
A PPP leader said that under the present composition of the lower house it would not be easy to get an amendment creating the post of deputy prime minister approved. “As far as the Punjab governorship is concerned it is a decision the party co-chairman can make foreseeing an extraordinary situation on the political front,” he concluded.
The PML-Q is also preparing a “pro-people agenda” in case it joins the PPP government.