Parvez Elahi 'Frustrated', Lobbying Hard For CM Slot Guarantee

Parvez Elahi 'Frustrated', Lobbying Hard For CM Slot Guarantee
LAHORE: Former premier Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have not finalised any name for the Punjab chief minister (CM) slot, nor has any such promise been made to any politician including Chaudhry Parvez Elahi or Moonis Elahi, The Friday Times (TFT) has learnt. 

It is pertinent to mention that former chief minister Punjab and PTI President Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, in an exclusive interview with an international media outlet, claimed that before they joined PTI, Imran Khan promised that he (Elahi) will be made party’s central president, and Khan fulfilled this promise. "We stayed with him through thick and thin, and also gave him respect since I gave him in writing to dissolve the assembly whenever he wants," Elahi said. 

“By making me party president he had given us respect too,” Elahi added. 

Imran Khan's 'promise'

“Imran Khan had also promised us that either me or Moonis Elahi would be made chief minister after the party comes to power in Punjab, and it could also be seen that he hasn't awarded a party ticket to any key leader in Punjab,” Elahi said in the exclusive interview.

However, in an interview to a private TV channel on April 23, Imran Khan claimed that Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Hammad Azhar or Fawad Chaudhry were not awarded party tickets in Punjab as he wants them in the center with him, since "the center is the engine that runs the country".

Imran Khan also said that he would not disclose the name of the party’s candidate for the coveted slot of Punjab's chief minister, fearing that it would "start a race among the probables” and lead to disintegration within the party even before the elections. 

'No promise was made' to Parvez Elahi 

Speaking to TFT, a senior PTI leader who had served as minister in former chief minister Usman Buzdar’s cabinet, said that no such promise was made to Parvez Elahi or any other candidate for the coveted slot of CM Punjab. 

“It is Imran Khan’s prerogative, and no such promise has been made whatsoever,” the PTI leader asserted. 

A founding member of PTI who hails from Lahore agreed with this assessment, and added that Imran Khan has repeatedly said in party meetings that all MPAs were potential candidates for the chief minister's office. The PTI old guard added that if Khan announced the name earlier, it would start rift and grouping in the party, which is extremely undesirable especially before the elections. 

It is pertinent to mention that, in an exclusive interview with Naya Daur TV on Saturday, Amir Saeed Rawn, a close friend of Moonis Elahi and former adviser to CM Elahi, confirmed that no promise was made with either Moonis or Elahi that they would be the candidates for CM slot once they join the party. “It is Imran Khan's discretion being the party head. He will decide whoever he wants to see as CM after coming to power,” Rawn said. 

“We joined PTI unconditionally,” Rawn clarified. 

Elahi wants to 'pressure' Imran Khan

Sources belonging to Parvez Elahi's inner sanctum confirmed to TFT that by giving such statements, the former chief minister wanted to pressure PTI chairman Imran Khan and keep himself relevant in the political arena of the country. Elahi wishes to retain some 'nuisance value' as he believes he is not being consulted by the party chairman on key issues, nor is he part of any important party meetings usually attended by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry and others. 

It may be recalled that Parvez Elahi was reported to be quite upset with his son Moonis Elahi, who convinced the elder Elahi to leave PMLQ and join PTI. Elahi also conveyed to Moonis that he felt he was being sidelined, and the attitude of key PTI leaders with him was not respectful enough. Insiders have claimed that Parvez Elahi doesn’t see any future for him in PTI, as he is of the strong opinion that Imran Khan doesn’t give any importance to him. 

Elahi giving statements ‘out of frustration’

Sources said that Elahi is making statements like these out of sheer frustration, as he is already doubtful that Imran Khan might give the coveted post of CM Punjab to Ali Afzal Sahi or to Usman Buzdar again, instead of him or Moonis. 

“He hasn’t given party tickets to other CM hopefuls like Shah Mahmood, Hammad Azhar or Fawad Chaudhry, but that doesn’t mean that he will give CMship to us,” sources claimed Elahi told Moonis. 

Insiders maintain that Elahi is concerned Imran might go for former CM Buzdar, Usman Dar or Ali Afzal Sahi if the party comes to power in Punjab. Therefore, in order to build pressure on Khan, Elahi is making claims of promises in interviews and in private gatherings. 

“He is saying this left, right and center just to create hype, as it would be difficult for Imran Khan to ignore the Elahi's in future if pressure is built,” insiders told TFT

It may be noted that before developing working relations with PTI in 2018 — when the PMLQ joined hands with Khan to form government in Punjab, in exchange for the Punjab assembly speaker slot with just 10 MPA seats — Elahi used to criticise both Khan and the establishment for breaking away electables from PMLQ to strengthen Khan's platform. In fact, many cabinet ministers in the PTI's Punjab government had previously worked with Parvez Elahi during his earlier tenure as chief minister from 2002 to 2008; a time when Khan used to call Elahi "the biggest dacoit of the Punjab". 

It is possible that Elahi could be trying to recoup his old ties and create some space for him in the party's Punjab ranks at least. However, given Imran Khan's centrality and indispensability to PTI's politics, it is unclear how successful Elahi could be, despite his political acumen and shrewdness. 

Elahi’s interview could stir rift within PTI 

PTI’s old guards who have worked closely with Imran Khan told TFT that party’s secretary general Asad Umar must issue a show cause notice to Parvez Elahi for making such a claim in an interview, which may stir rift within the party and might lead to factionalism that could be very damaging for the party ahead of general elections in Punjab. 

“Such a careless interview, when Elahi doesn’t have clear party policy or finalised name (be it him or his son) from the chairman Imran Khan for the CM Slot, could be very damaging for the party,” a senior PTI leader, who was a federal minister in Khan’s cabinet, said. 

Elahi should be asked to clarify his position and asked not to make such careless statements in future, the senior PTI leader and former minister added. 

Some sources nevertheless claim that what Elahi was saying may be true: Khan might have made such promises to them in private conversations for which there would be no record or witness. “Khan is very prudent when it comes to matters like these: he can take a U-Turn even if the promises are made on record, so it is no big deal if he ditched them [the Elahi's] too,” one source purported. 

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.