Is PML-Q Still A ‘King's Party'? 

Is PML-Q Still A ‘King's Party'? 
It seems that Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), a party with only five seats in the National Assembly and 10 seats in the Punjab Assembly still enjoys a reputation of being the ‘King’s Party’.

The party was founded by a group of some ‘likeminded’ Muslim Leaguers such as Mian Azhar, Syed, Fakhar Imam, Humayyon Akhter Khan, and Ejaz ul Haq in the post October 12, 1999 scenario when the then elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted in a bloodless coup. Within days, a new faction of the Muslim League headed by the former Punjab governor Mian Azhar emerged. This was joined by a bulk of politicians who bade farewell to Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

From 2001 to 2007, PML-Q, with complete backing of country’s establishment remained the top political party but the 2007 National Reconciliation Order, famously known as NRO, proved to be the beginning of the end for its nearly eight-year successful run.

In the 2008 polls, PML-Q was in dire straits and despite winning 84 seats in Punjab Assembly, a group of its dissidents came into existence in form of a forward bloc. This was led by a few noted politicians like late Najaf Sial, Atta Maneka, Col (Rtd) Abbas. About five dozen more MPAs elected on PML-Q tickets in 2008 became part of it.

No one could have predicted that PML-Q could reemerge on the political map and regain its lost glory but much to the surprise of political pundits, the situation changed dramatically when Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) parted ways with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). In order to attain the simple majority, the PPP, whose leader Asif Zardari had previously used the term “Qatil League” for PML-Q, had to go to PML-Q to protect the PPP government from a nasty fall. PML-Q not only joined the Federal Government but Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi became the first and only deputy Prime Minister of the country.

In the 2013 polls which were by all means a PML-N show of power, PML-Q could win only eight seats in Punjab. However, in the 2018 polls, despite winning a marginal number of seats in Punjab (10) and five in the National Assembly, PML-Q emerged as a party with a reputation that ‘it holds the key’. Lady luck once again sided with OML-Q.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which won major chunk of seats in Punjab and Centre had to go in alignment with PML-Q, amid huge criticism from the rival parties. Imran Khan had once used the term ‘Daaku’ for PML-Q leadership and now he had to accept the same party to take oath as Prime Minister of the country.

In order to attain the figure of simple majority in the National Assembly, PTI needs a support of minimum 171 MNAs but its actual strength is 156. MQM has 7 MNAs and allies like GDA, AML, JWP along with 5 MNAs of PML-Q enable PTI to remain in power in Centre. The edge PML-Q is enjoying over other allies is that it is also in alignment with PTI in Punjab where its 10 MPAs are the reason why PTI rule in Punjab is intact.

Even if PML-Q does not withdraw its support in the National Assembly and only parts ways with PTI in Punjab, the PTI government loses majority. In this way, PML-Q has been the greatest beneficiary of the numbers game. Amongst the allies, it seems the most fortunate, thus raising the question whether it still enjoys the status of the ‘King’s Party’. If it withdraws its support from the government, a crisis is seemingly inevitable.

PML-Q has exploited the numbers game situation quite intelligently in these three-and-a-half years. Despite having only 10 MPAs in Punjab, it has won the slot of Speaker Punjab Assembly and so far received two Ministries: Mines and Minerals as well as Environment. Hafiz Ammar Yasir from Chakwal and Bau Rizwan from Sialkot are the Ministers in the cabinet of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar. With only 10 MPAs in Punjab, it has also snatched a seat in the Senate.

Similarly, in the National Assembly, with only five seats, it has got two Federal Ministries: Tariq Bashir Cheema and Chaudhry Moonis Elahi. This seems in stark contrast to the pre-poll claims of Prime Minister Imran Khan of keeping a small size cabinet. Last week, a PML-Q member of parliament from Mandi Bahauddin, Sajid Ahmed Bhatti, was elected ‘unopposed’ Public Accounts Committee-II (PAC) chairman during the PAC meeting held at the assembly secretariat. Sources say PML-Q long vied for the slot and snatched it when situation supported its drive.

Moreover, PML-Q also wants hold in four districts of Punjab including Chakwal, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin and Bahwalpur. These are the districts where PML-Q has got mandate.

With not much time left for the next election, PML-Q is likely to ask for more favors from PTI as it knows that PTI is left with no choice but to comply with those. The ‘King’s Party’ is back into action and might look for big oppurtunities in the coming days.

The writer has a PhD in South Asian Studies from the University of the Punjab.