Imran Khan Should Not Underestimate The Wily PMLQ Dynasty In Days To Come
Ever since Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office in 2018, members of opposition parties have been targeted under the umbrella of corruption charges. A recent development involves the arrest of national assembly’s opposition leader, Shehbaz Sharif.
While the Prime Minister’s government continues to target opposition parties for corruption charges, the coalition partners of the government have also been embroiled in corruption scandals. Moonis Elahi, a MNA from PML-Q, was implicated by the sugar inquiry commission, probing the sugar crisis experienced by Pakistan earlier this year. However, it is not the corruption scandal of Moonis Elahi that should worry the Prime Minister, but the ever-wavering political support that the PML-Q’s political dynasty extends to its political partners. As the opposition prepares to dismantle the government, PML-Q might be the first government ally to switch sides.
The roots of PML-Q’s political dynasty stems from Chaudry Shujaat Hussain’s election to the national assembly of Pakistan in 1981, serving as the member of national assembly six times between 1981-2007. He has also served twice in Pakistan’s Senate. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s political career does not only illustrate the making of one of Pakistan’s political dynasties, but it also sheds light on the dynasty’s tendency to switch political loyalties. In the initial years of his political career, Chaudry Shujaat held multiple cabinet positions during the dictatorial regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. After General Zia’s demise, Chaudry Shujaat continued to serve in multiple cabinet positions under the Premiership of Nawaz Sharif. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed by a military coup installed by General Pervez Musharraf, Chaudry Shujaat switched from Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, and joined PML-Q. Under Musharraf’s regime, Chaudry Shujaat assented to the position of Premiership, serving for a little more than a one year period. Chaudry Shujaat’s political career eclipsed when he suffered defeat in his ancestral constituency in the 2008 general elections.
While curtains came down on Chaudhry Shujaat’s political career in the general elections of 2008, his brother, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, was able to secure a national assembly seat in the elections. Pervaiz Elahi’s presence in the national assembly of 2008-2013 enabled PML-Q’s political dynasty to take yet another pivot to a different political party. During this period, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi became a part of Pakistan Peoples Party’s coalition government, first serving as a cabinet minister, and then serving as the Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan. From 2013-2018, Pervaiz Elahi remained on the opposition benches of the national assembly. The general elections of 2018 increased PML-Q’s political dynasty hold on power. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s son, Salik Hussain was successful in his run for a seat in the national assembly. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s nephew, Hussain Elahi, was also successful in securing a seat in the national assembly. On the other hand, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi won seats in both, the national assembly as well as the Punjab assembly. He ended up vacating his national assembly seat, for which his son, Moonis Elahi, contested and won in the bye-election.
PML-Q currently has five seats in the national assembly, and holds 10 seats in the Punjab assembly. In the absence of support extended from PML-Q, Prime Minister Khan would have faced serious hurdles in forming a government in the center as well as Punjab. PML-Q’s support to Prime Minister Imran Khan did not go unrewarded. PML-Q’s Chaudry Pervaiz Elahi was allotted speakership of the Punjab assembly, and Tariq Bashir Cheema, MNA from PML-Q, was given a cabinet position. However, PML-Q has shown displeasure, on a number of occasions, over the way Prime Minister Khan’s government has treated them. PML-Q was hopeful that Moonis Elahi will be given a place in the cabinet; however, this did not turn out to be the case.
Moonis Elahi, on Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk, revealed that during his meeting with Prime Minister Khan, he felt that the Prime Minister was unwelcoming to the prospects of him serving in the cabinet. However, this was not the only time Moonis Elahi voiced his differences with Imran Khan’s government. He has, on multiple occasions, criticized Prime Minister Khan’s cabinet members through his tweets. He has tweeted against statements given by Fawad Chaudry as well as Sheikh Rasheed. Criticizing Fawad Chaudhry, Moonis Elahi tweeted, “@fawadchaudhry the logic is that social distancing can’t be maintained in current assembly building. Current hall is small and members are adjusted upstairs in the gallery when attendance is full. Too bad we can’t deploy corona tiger force in punjab assembly.”
Hussain Elahi, Moonis Elahi’s cousin and a MNA from PML-Q have criticized the PTI government for its inability to fully comprehend the issues faced by the Pakistani citizenry. Hussain Elahi gave this statement only a few months after Khan’s government had assumed power. Earlier this year, PML-Q decided to skip a dinner organized in the Prime Minister house, citing the events clash with a party’s internal event. When rumor of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar were floating, PML-Q announced that if PTI decides to remove Buzdar, Pervaiz Elahi should be his replacement.
As the opposition mounts pressure on the government, the survival of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government rests on his allies’ resistance to any approaches made by the opposition. However, considering PML-Q’s history of switching loyalties, this may turn out to be a difficult task for the Prime Minister.
The author is a graduate student of U.S. Foreign policy at The George Washington University.