Fret not, dear prime minister! This is what Federal Minister Moonis Elahi said at a briefing while addressing Prime Minister Imran Khan. The PM smiled. Celebrations erupted among the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) rank and file.
Our brilliant newsroom people turned his words into a wonderful headline.
Politics remains good fodder for journalists in our part of the world. From a meeting between the Sharifs and Chaudhrys to the late night announcement of an increase in petrol price – everything is political. The only thing that remains apolitical is the third marriage of TV host and PTI Member of National Assembly (MNA) Amir Liaquat Hussain.
Last week, TV talk show hosts had a field day after the stopover of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) Shehbaz Sharif at the Chaudhry house to ‘enquire about the health of ailing Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’. Neither side said anything on the record about the meetings.
In the current season of gossip about the PTI government, when Shehbaz went to meet Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain after a long time, no clear message came out of the meeting.
Before the PML-N president, Zardari also visited the Chaudhrys. Now, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also paid a visit to the Chaudhrys of Gujarat.
PM Khan was the last man to visit the Chaudhry house. The three back-to-back meetings between the Chaudhrys and opposition leaders have failed to yield any result. At the moment, they seem not ready to ditch Imran Khan.
Meanwhile, Kamil Ali Agha, a long-time loyalist of the Chaudhrys, stated in a TV interview that we (read: Chaudhrys) are with the “state” and “not the Imran government”. We can infer from his statement and Chaudhrys’ tactics that PM Khan’s government still enjoys the patronage of the “state”.
Let us not underestimate the political maturity of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. They play smart in crises.
Their best political quality is to keep their doors open. To them, politics is not personal enmity. Side by side, they remember history well.
Chaudhrys stood loyal to the Sharifs during the second government of Benazir Bhutto in 1993. Shehbaz was then leader of the opposition in the punjab assembly. After spending a few days in jail, when he was released on bail, he flew abroad for the “treatment of his backpain”. In his absence, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi picked the opposition’s role and kept the government under constant siege.
In the 1997 elections, Nawaz Sharif returned to power with a “heavy mandate”. By that time, Shehbaz was fit enough to become the Punjab chief minister. Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was made a toothless speaker of the Punjab Assembly.
In the centre, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was made a toothless interior minister as the power stick was grabbed by the accountability watchdog head, Saifur Rehman. Both suffered in power. They, however, kept waiting for favourable time.
The October 1999 coup brought lots of fortune and favours for Gujrat’s Chaudhrys. This time, they formed the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Chaudhry Parvez Elahi become the chief minister of Punjab. He remained in the office for five years.
Later, they shook hands with Zardari; subsequently, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi became the deputy prime minister. These days he is the speaker of the Punjab Assembly. A toothless speaker, we can say.
The party, which has members less than fingers on two hands, has two federal ministries, a Senate seat and two provincial ministries, has become the centre of attention these days.
Those visiting the Chaudhrys have nothing in their plate to offer in exchange for severing ties with Imran Khan.
What will Zardari give to Chaudhrys if the new government is formed?
What can Shehbaz and Rehman give Shujaat Hussain and Parvez Elahi?
Promises coming from Sharifs may not work.
So, we can say Chaudhrys are receiving guests for ‘courtesy calls’ only.