ISLAMABAD: Tension and bitterness gripped the recent meet-ing of Pakistan Muslim League-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain with President Pervez Musharraf when the latter asked the for-mer to step down from theparty.
“Chaudhry Sahib, your health doesn’t warrant your continuation as the PML-Q president, therefore, you should call it a day and delink yourself from the party,” a high-level PML-Q source told The News, quoting Musharraf as urging Shujaat in the meeting.
He said this was the fourth time over the past few months when the president asked Chaudhry Shujaat to leave the PML-Q stewardship. “I was elected by 3,000 members of the PML-Q General Council that can only remove me,” the PML-Q chief said.
Musharraf, according to the source, told Chaudhry Shujaat that if he and Pervaiz Elahi said goodbye to the PML-Q and Hamid Nasir Chattha became its president, it would be acceptable to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Zardari for cooperation. Musharraf wants the PML-Q minus the Chaudhrys to be ‘friendly opposition’ for some time.
The source said Musharraf believes that because of his excellent relations with slain Benazir Bhutto, Chattha was acceptable to Zardari to the extent that they would be comfortable to work together.
“The offer for the PML-Q is that it may be part of the PPP governments at the federal level and in the Punjab in place of the PML-Nawaz,” the president told Chaudhry Shujaat, when the latter asked what was on the plate in exchange for relinquishing the PML-Q stewardship.
In the highly tense meeting, Chaudhry Shujaat then informed Musharraf that at midnight
on the election day, he was told by an intelligence colonel when he was sitting with Imran Masood that he had won his Gujrat seat.
But he said he got another call from the same person after two hours in which he was told
that he had lost because “his success was not cleared from the above”. The PML-Q chief then asked how come Wajahat and Moonis Elahi, who won their seats in Gujrat, were more popular than him?
The source said Chaudhry Shujaat told the president that the PML-Q was robbed of at
least 18 National Assembly seats, including those of Hamayun Akhtar and Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.
Without paying any serious attention to his claims, Musharraf said in a casual way that it was now an old story that should not be talked about any longer. “All this was done for the credibility of the elections at our cost,” the PML-Q chief replied.
He further told Musharraf that he and Mushahid Hussain Sayed were elected by the General Council as president and secretary general respectively in August 2006 for three years, and they had announced that they would not be candidates for the party positions after the expiry of their present term.
A senior PML-Q leader remarked that there was now no doubt left in the top hierarchy of the party that the president had ditched the Chaudhrys as he had found new political allies. “Although, Musharraf says he has Asif Zardari in his pocket, I don’t believe that the PPP chief has told the president that he is prepared for cooperation with the PML-Q if the Chaudhrys are dispensed with,” the PML-Q leader said.
Musharraf’s urging to Chaudhry Shujaat to quit the party leadership has been so depressing for the Chaudhrys that Pervaiz Elahi recently said that Shujaat was not a grade 18 government officer, who could be dismissed like a civil servant.
The PML-Q leader said although there would be no open war between Musharraf and the Chaudhrys after the deep acrimony, the trust and confidence that the two sides used to have, however, could hardly be restored.
Before Chaudhry Shujaat went to see Musharraf on the fateful day, a top PML-Q leader had urged him to tell the president if Musharraf asked him to quit the party leadership that he should also relinquish the presidency as vociferous demands had been made for it and he had been rejected by a vast majority of the people.
The PML-Q, which believes that three As (America, Army and Asif) really matter, feels that Musharraf is unlikely to survive beyond November this year when George Bush would also go. “Because of the ‘tribal tradition’ of Texas, Bush continues to stand with Musharraf just for the reason that since he has called him a friend, he will not leave him. Other powerful organs of the US administration have written Musharraf off,” a PML-Q leader said.