ISLAMABAD: Presidential poll PML-Q’s Waterloo

By Amir Wasim

The Saturday’s presidential election proved to be a Waterloo for the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), whose numerical strength in the parliament as well as provincial assemblies was reduced to almost one-thirds, posing a serious challenge to it in terms of maintaining its existence.

According to the unofficial results of the elections, PML-Q’s candidate Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed got only 44 electoral votes even though, keeping in view the party’s strength in all the assemblies and parliament, he was projected to secure 126 votes.

The result clearly shows that most of the PML-Q members, who were earlier staunch supporters of former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, have changed their loyalties in less than one month of his resignation and are now trying to prove their allegiance to their new-found friends and arch rivals of the past — Pakistan People’s Party and the PML-N.

However, as per the tradition of Pakistan’s politics, a majority of the defectors have decided to join the ruling party which is evident from the fact that Mr Zardari has obtained votes much more than the target of 450 set by the party leadership before the elections.

The position of the PML-N’s candidate Justice (retd) Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui remained unaffected as he secured 153 electoral votes against the expected 150 votes. The PML-N managed to show its strength in the Punjab Assembly where its candidate obtained 201 actual votes in the 371-member house -– thus making it the only assembly where Mr Zardari suffered a defeat.

Political experts were focussing on the outcome of the Punjab Assembly results believing that it would determine the future of the Shahbaz Sharif-led government in the province. The relationship between the PPP and the PML-N got strained after the last month’s decision of the PML-N to part ways with the PPP at the centre over the differences on the issues of the reinstatement of the deposed judges and the PPP’s decision to unilaterally nominate Mr Zardari as the presidential candidate. The outcome of the result was important because both the PPP and the PML-N have fielded separate candidates despite the fact they are still part of the ruling coalition in the province.

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Prime Minister’s Adviser Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo had been assigned the task to manoeuvre between the political groups in the province, but it seemed that they failed to get the support of the majority of the members of the PML-Q forward bloc, who polled votes in favour of the PML-N’s candidate. The PML-Q had suffered a major blow when a strong group of about 30 parliamentarians attended the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the PM House on Friday evening which had been arranged to show their strength ahead of the presidential elections.

Soon after the announcement of the unofficial results, a dejected Senator Mushahid Hussain — who was the only candidate who ran an extensive campaign — alleged some foul-play in the polling held for the presidential election. On the other hand, another PML-Q MNA Sheikh Waqas Akram declared that those who had not voted for the party’s candidate were “turncoats”. Talking to the media, he termed the presidential election a good omen for the party, saying that now the real PML-Q would play the role of a true opposition in the parliament.

However, political experts believe that in the near future more PML-Q members will ditch the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and will either join the PPP or the PML-N, thus proving that the PML-Q was really a “King’s Party” which is facing extinction within a month of the ouster of Gen (retd) Musharraf

Source: Daily Dawn, 7/9/2008

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