Just few days ago PML-Q in Baluchistan merged with Baluchistan Awami Party. That move of PML-Q provincial leadership practically wiped the party from the political scene of Baluchistan. The party is facing the existential crisis. The large number of electables in the party fold has decided ditch the party and to join the PTI in Punjab. The PML-Q will be left with handful of candidates in Punjab. PML-Q is experiencing a slow death.
Almost all the prominent leaders and electables either left the party or on the way to leave. Even one of the most trusted leaders and provincial general secretary of Punjab Ch. Zaheer u din considering joining the PTI. Even the close aids and relatives of Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervez Ilahi have lost confidence in the party. They see no future of the party in the upcoming general elections.
PML-Q emerged as the main pro-establishment party also dubbed as kings party before the 2002 general elections. This party was formed under the patronage of General Musharaf as a political tool to face off PPP and PML-N. It emerged as the largest party in national assembly and in two provincial assemblies of Punjab and Baluchistan. PML-Q formed the federal government and provincial governments in Punjab, Baluchistan and Sindh.
The Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) started as a small group of half a dozen like-minded people in the PML-N, including Mian Azhar, Khurshid Kasuri, Abida Hussain and Fakhar Imam in defiance of Nawaz Sharif and his family’s monopoly on the party. When General Musharaf toppled the Nawaz Sharif government in October 1999 this group of leaders supported his military take over.
Initially Mian Azhar led this party but before the 2002 general elections he was replaced by Chaudhris of Gujrat. Mian Azhar fell out with Chaudhris and even lost his election. He accused Chaudhry Pervez Elahi for this loss. Since then Chaudhris of Gujrat led the party.
The Musharaf regime, armed with the NAB stick, pressured local PML-N leaders and former legislators to defect and join the PML-Q. The majority obliged. In the 2000-01 non-party local government elections, most of the councillors and district Nazism belonged to the PML-Q.
In May 2002, the then Punjab Home Secretary, Brigadier ® Ejaz Shah, and Inspector General Police Punjab, Asif Hayat, went on a whirlwind tour of more than 20 districts of the province using the Governor’s aero plane to meet and inform local administration that the PML-Q is the establishment’s favourite party. The Punjab Governor, General ® Khalid Maqbool, also followed their lead and soon, a large number of PPPP local leaders began defecting to the PML-Q, all over Punjab. The Principal Secretary to General Musharaf, Tariq Aziz, supervised the consolidation of the King’s Party in Punjab’s rural areas where 70 per cent of the electoral constituencies lie. At least two-thirds of the candidates fielded by the PML-Q are either former PPP or PML-N legislators.
Seeing the PPP’s strength, the PML-Q and its patrons in the government moved to break the PPPP at the local level. In the last few months, at least 100 local leaders and former PPPP legislators have defected from the PPPP to join the King’s Party in various districts of the provinces. Thus has weakened the PPPP in the rural areas, where individual influence counts more than in the urban areas.
PML-Q lost the 2008 general elections and came third after PPP and PML-N. It also lost in all four provincial assemblies. Since the 2008 elections, PML-Q facing continued defections and splits. Its leadership even joined PPP led coalition government to avoid further defections. This decision to join the PPP government backfired in 2013 elections as it won just two seats in the national assembly. Since then this party is fighting hard to survive. It lost the state patronage it enjoyed under the Musharaf rule.
The PML-Q was never a popular party with deep roots in the masses. It was a combination of influential candidates clubbed together by Musharaf regime. Defections were made and encouraged in different political parties. These leaders started to split away to join their respective parties as soon as it lost state patronage. PML-Q is facing the same fate as other king’s parties met in the history of Pakistan. Chaudhris of Gujrat now harvesting what they sowed 15 years ago.
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13 November, 2019