PML-Q challenges Shahbaz to call polls
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: The members of the `Q` and `N` factions of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) took their political battle from Punjab to the National Assembly on Monday with the PML-Q challenging Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to dissolve the provincial assembly and call fresh elections.
Speaking on points of order in the National Assembly, which met for the first time after PML-N`s decision last week to expel the Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) from the provincial cabinet and replace it with members of PML-Q`s forward bloc, the MNAs of the two Leagues accused each other of supporting military dictators and promoting `lotacracy` (defections) in the past.
When the members of the two opposition factions were washing their dirty linen in public, PPP`s members, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, preferred to remain silent despite being one of the main players in the Punjab politics.
As Speaker Fehmida Mirza announced completion of the question hour, PML-Q parliamentary leader Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat took the floor on a point of order and lashed out at the PML-N leadership for its decision to accept the PML-Q rebel group – Unification Bloc – in the government fold in Punjab.
Mr Hayat, who had himself defected the PPP after winning the 2002 elections on its ticket and formed a forward bloc with the name of Patriots, said that those who had been lecturing them about “lotacracy` for many years were now busy in the same practice.
“If you have lost the majority, then dissolve the assembly and hold fresh elections in the province. This is what you can do and only after this we will recognise you as a man of principles,” Mr Hayat said.
He questioned the logic being given by PML-N leaders that the `misled` members of the PML-Q had actually returned to their parent organisation and claimed that some of the members of the Unification Bloc had never been in the PML-N and had started their politics during the previous military regime led by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. So much so, he said, the parliamentary leader of the bloc, Tahir Javed, and Ata Mohammad Maneka had never been in the PML-N.
Mr Hayat said the PML-N had no moral justification to rule Punjab any more, adding that they would take all democratic and constitutional steps to stop the politics of turncoats. He said both ruling parties had made a mockery of the much-publicised Charter of Democracy signed by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and late PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto in May 2006 in London.
The PML-Q leader, who had always been critical of the prime minister and his policies, however, praised the PPP for not trying to create any bloc within his party despite having resources.
“Had the PPP made such an attempt, some of our members might have joined it,” he said.Firebrand PML-N MNA from Lahore Khwaja Saad Rafiq said it was not his party that had created the forward bloc in the PML-Q and that it was a decision of the majority of the parliamentary group. Taunting Mr Hayat for forming the Patriots group, Mr Rafiq said his party had not used any intelligence agency like the ISI or MI for defections in the PML-Q.
The PML-N leader said the country`s history showed that the parties created by military dictators had always faced the same fate and this was what was happening with the PML-Q after the departure of its mentor, Gen (retd) Musharraf. “We have not asked Sheikh Rashid Ahmed or Ijazul Haq to quit the PML-Q,” he said, adding that there were members sitting in the house who were not following the party line being given by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
In response to Mr Rafiq`s speech, PML-Q MNA from Jhang Sheikh Waqas Akram alleged that the PML-N had used government resources in Punjab to trigger defections in his party.
He claimed that all those involved in politics today had served one or the other dictator in the past.
Mr Akram said that even if the PML-Q rebels were leaving the party on their own, the PML-N should not accept them in its fold to promote healthy politics.
Admitting that his party had committed a mistake by supporting the previous military government, he said it was strange that an apology tendered by the PML-N for supporting Gen Ziaul Haq was acceptable to all, but no one was ready to accept their apology for supporting Gen Musharraf. He said defections had always been a characteristic of the PML and every dictator had used the party for his personal interest.