LAHORE: Two bitter political rivals, the PPP and PML-Q, on Monday tried to give a new meaning to the adage, “Politics is the art of the possible”, by expressing intent to “find a way forward through reconciliation in view of the crisis besetting the country”.
The drama unfolded with a visit to the residence of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, by Law Minister Babar Awan. As if this were not enough, the two men addressed a joint press conference in which they dropped hints that the two parties were exploring prospects of forging a “working relationship”.
Political observers interpreted the development as an attempt by the People’s Party to pre-empt the efforts for reunification of all Muslim League factions spearheaded by Pir Pagara.
Pervaiz Elahi, once named as her possible killer by slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto in a letter to Mark Siegel, her lobbyist in Washington, welcomed the Babar Awan-led PPP team, arguing “doors cannot be shut (on opponents) in politics”.
“It is a duty of both the government and the opposition to sit together as equal stakeholders in the democratic system for giving the masses a message of hope about their future as well as democracy,” the minister told the media after the meeting, endorsing his host’s views that all political players should jointly discuss issues facing the people.
He said it was neither the first encounter (with the Q League) nor the last as “the contacts would continue in the future as well”.
A PML-Q leader said representatives of the two parties met to chalk out modalities of cooperation on the agenda already set in principle at a recent meeting with President Asif Zardari in Islamabad.
Underlining the importance of the contacts, he said the meetings could not have taken place without a green signal from the establishment.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had phoned Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain two weeks ago after reports that the party was making efforts to reconcile with the Nawaz Sharif-led faction of the League.
In reply to a query, Mr Awan did not rule out electoral cooperation between both the parties.
“The party (PML-N) in whose regime Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was disqualified (to contest the polls) also remained a coalition partner for six months in our federal government,” he said.
The law minister, reacting to an interpretation that by joining hands, both parties were insulting the mandate the voters had given them, asserted that people voted only for those who had ‘positive’ agendas. Otherwise political parties could never have got votes.
“Democracy learns a lesson from the past, but does not go by the past. Democracy is an approach to future.”
Recalling that his party had been cooperating with the government on national issues like the 18th Amendment and terrorism, Mr Elahi said they were ready to sit with everyone “for solving problems of the masses”.
He did nothing to scotch speculations that the Q-League had decided to dissociate itself from the unification process. Pervaiz Elahi said “the deserters” (the Likeminded faction led by Salim Saifullah and Unification Bloc in Punjab Assembly) should first return to their parent party and only then talks of joining hands with other Leaguers could be held.
Chaudhry Shujaat, along with his party’s secretary-general, had recently visited PML-F chief Pir Pagara in Karachi and told the media that unity would be forged among all factions of the League under the leadership of the Pir.
Two senators of the party, S.M. Zafar and Tariq Azeem, had called on Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders in Lahore on Oct 17.
Punjab Law Minister and PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah termed the Awan-Elahi meeting an effort of the Q leader to remain alive in the media.
He said “the Lota League formed as per requirement of the establishment will dissolve after serving its utility as some of its members will go with the PPP and the rest will join their mother party (N League) leaving the Chaudhrys alone.”