Pakistan Reader# 318, 5 April 2022
On 28 March, the PTI announced that the PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi would be its candidate for Punjab chief minister for the remaining term. Subsequently, Chaudhry Elahi stated: "As allies, we will serve the nation together." There are three primary reasons why the PML-Q has opted against the prevailing narrative vis-a-vis Imran Khan.
First, the PML-Q's past experience with the PML-N. Both share a mistrust; the PML-Q was founded in 2002 by disgruntled leaders of the PML-N. PML-Q henceforth called as Qaf league) enabled a multi-party system in Pakistan and has been termed as 'King's Party' since then. The party has been pro-establishment and has been sidelined by PML-N (henceforth called Nawaz league) in the past. In current developments before the slated no-confidence-motion, the Nawaz league was not in favor of giving too much importance to Qaf league, Chaudhry Elahi claimed on national TV: "We also learnt that PML-Q will get chief minister slot only for three or four months." That would not have done any good to the Qaf league in building their vote capital and the Qaf opted to remain open to all possibilities. The PTI offered the Qaf Punjab CM slot without any pre-conditions. The Qaf league is looking at their political revival in the province over the traditional Nawaz league.
Second, the need to remain politically relevant. Currently, the PML-Q had five seats in the national assembly, and their seat share has been depleting. Siding with the opposition would have certainly diluted their appeal and being overshadowed by a major party like the Nawaz league. Many democratic countries in today’s information revolution era have witnessed the rise of independent voters who do not believe in freezing their loyalty. The same has happened in an ever-younger Pakistan and Qaf league has the chance to present itself as 'naya’ alternative over the dynastic parties. The Qaf league is certainly not a newcomer but its decision to jointly contest with PTI in the Punjab provincial election of 2023 has certainly given it some new sheen to its political appeal.
Third, the politics of independents. Many members of the Qaf league got elected under the PTI’s ticket in the general election of 2018. Sardar Talib Hassan Nakai, Muhammad Nawaz Khan Allai and Muhammad Ameer Sultan are a few important strong-men who have the capability to politically drive the dynamics in coalition of PTI and Qaf league. Any decision which would not consider the opinion of independents may weaken the strength of both the parties and hence these independents have given PTI and Qaf league to bind together and retain the much-required political influence the independents have in their respective constituencies.
To conclude, the upcoming general election and provincial elections in Punjab are important for the PTI to increase its foothold in Punjab. The Qaf league has turned out to be appropriate life support for the popularity of PTI. In return, the Qaf league would also utilise the platform with PTI to win back the support from ‘independent’ voters while coming back stronger from its traditional constituencies.
Zulkarnain Tahir, “Elahi begins quest to occupy Punjab CM’s office, save PM,” Dawn, 30 March 2022
Danish Khan, “The Political Economy Of The Establishment’s Neutrality In Pakistan,” The Friday Times, 27 March 2022
Renata Sago, Ben Markus, Jude Joffe-Block, “Sick Of Political Parties, Unaffiliated Voters Are Changing Politics,” NPR, 28 February 2016
“Why did PML-Q side with PM Imran Khan?,” The News International, 30 March 2022
“The PMLQ Conundrum Why the Importance?,” Pakistan Defence, 18 March 2022
“PTI, PML-Q vow to jointly contest Punjab LG polls,” The Express Tribune, 4 January 2022