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Pakistan Reader# 358, 29 June 2022

The PML-Q, and the split within the Chaudhrys



What would happen to the Chaudhry empire, as the Chaudhrys stand divided across the two generations?

D. Suba Chandran

A recent analysis in this column looked at the future of PML-Q; it analysed the weakness of the party, focussing on the lack of cadre support, the top-heavy political structure, the changing fortunes and its relations with the Establishment, and the alliance with the PTI. It also briefly looked at the divide within the PML-Q, especially between the brothers. This analysis primarily focus on the last point – the divide between the Chaudhry brothers and cousins.

The Chaudhries: A brief profile so far
The PML-Q was led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Chaudhry Pervez Elahi. Both are from Gujarat in Punjab, and belong to one of the influential business/industrialist families in Punjab. Both the Chaudhrys were politically active since the 1980s, and later joined the PML-N. Until 2002, the Chaudhrys were PML-N loyalists and were close to the Sharifs. 

After the coup led by Musharraf, they shifted their loyalties from the Sharifs. In 2002, both the Chaudhrys joined the PML-Q; the party was supported by the Establishment against the PML-N, especially in Punjab. Both the Chaudhrys have been politically powerful from their respective constituencies, and have been repeatedly elected to the provincial and national assemblies. Between the two, they have served as Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Minister and Speaker of the Punjab provincial assembly.

2022: The divide within
Though the Chaudhrys have remained united for more than four decades, there is a big divide threatening not only their political future but also their party – the PML-Q.

The primary difference began, when the PML-N and the PPP, then in the opposition started pursuing a vigorous appeasement in Punjab, to unseat the PTI – from both the national and Punjab provincial assemblies. The Chaudhry had their own problems with the PTI, but it was not unsurmountable. They were unhappy with Imran Khan, especially over the continued reliance on Usman Buzdar as Punjab’s Chief Minister. Though Chaudhry Pervez Elahi served as the Speaker of the Punjab provincial assembly, they were expecting to get the Chief Minister slot for them. 

The Chaudhrys had only ten seats in Punjab provincial assembly and five in the national assembly. However, the numbers were crucial for the PTI in both the assemblies. Imran Khan, though understood the crucial nature of the support from the Chaudhrys, did not yield to their pressure on giving away the chief minister’s slot to the PML-Q.

When the PPP and the PML-N started reaching out to the Chaudhrys early this year, the divide started between the two over whether the stay with Imran Khan, or switch their allegiance. The divide expanded subsequently, and the two Chaudhrys stand divided over the issue.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain decided to support the PML-N and PPP combine – both at national and provincial levels. On the other hand, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi decided to remain with the PTI. As a result, the party stands divided vertically between the two Chaudhrys.

Worse, the divide between the two Chaudhries expanded to include other members of the family. Two sons of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain – Salik Hussain and Shafay Hussain – both support Shebaz Sharif. Salik Hussain is a federal minister with the Shebaz government. Recently, they met with Hamsa Shebaz, Punjab’s new chief minister and conveyed their support at the province level as well. 

Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain, the younger brother of Shujaat Hussain made a damning statement against his elder brother – accusing Salik and Shafay Hussain of taking dollars from the PPP to switch allegiance. Wajahat Hussain is politically aligned with Pervez Elahi. Moonis Elahi, son of Pervez Elahi remains with his father and is supporting the PTI. 

The above would mean, that the divide within the Chaudhrys has spilled over to the next generation. 

The road ahead
So what next for the Chaudhrys and the PML-Q? 
The Chaudhrys individually are influential in their respective constituencies and are likely to get elected, irrespective of their political affiliation. However, the party does not have other leaders, who have the same influence as Shujaat Hussian and Pervez Elahi. 

If both the Chaudhrys decide to split, it would be a political suicide for the party. Already the party has members in single digits – both in national and provincial assemblies. It would decline further in the forthcoming elections.

Besides, what would happen to the Chaudhry empire? The Chaudhrys stand divided across the two generations. Shujaat Hussain and Pervez Elahi stayed together during the last four decades; this provided them the space to build their political and industrial career. The split across the generations may lead to the end of Chaudhry line in Gujarat as well. Unless they patch up.

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