Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moonis Elahi in USA: PML-Q Wants US Guarantees For Joining Hands With PPP

LAHORE: Former Punjab chief minister Ch Pervez Elahi has landed in Washington for a check-up and some political discussions with US officials engaged in the politics of Pakistan before a handshake with the PPP, The News has learnt.

The former CM flew from Islamabad to London on Saturday. He took a flight for Washington on Sunday night from Heathrow to arrive in Washington late Sunday night (local time). He is being accompanied by his son, Moonis Elahi.

‘Officially’, the former CM has gone for a check-up. Party sources revealed Ch Pervez Elahi was expected to meet the US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher, along with other important officials.

It is learnt the visit aims at taking stock of current political dynamics in Pakistan and the growing significance of PML-Q against the backdrop of fast-changing political realities. Sources say the purpose of the visit is to have a straight talk with the US authorities, seeking the PML-Q's support for cementing the PPP government's hold on the power. The US, party sources go on to say, wants a stable government at the centre and in provinces so its interests in the war on terror are not compromised.

Since there is some element of mistrust between the PPP and the PML-Q and the process of understanding still fluid, the latter wishes to have firsthand guarantees from the brokers. The PML-Q doesn't want to join the government with multiple unsettled agenda necessary for smooth post-agreement sailing. The PML-Q leader will discuss various aspects of cooperation with the US officials.

It is learnt a particular group among the top party leaders is working on a possible understanding with the PPP. It is important to note the PML-Q is talking straight with President Asif Ali Zardari, while escaping the rest of the PPP leadership's involvement in the process. Party President Ch Shujaat Hussain and Secretary General Mushahid Hussain have remained in touch with Ch Pervez Elahi from China. Both these leaders are returning on Monday. The PML-Q Parliamentary Leader in the National Assembly, Faisal Saleh Hayat, is also part of the clique. The party is assessing the pros and cons of sharing power with the PPP at the centre and in provinces, especially Punjab.

Since a great majority of PML-Q is against developing any political relationship with the PPP, the men at work are quite particular about deciding all aspects of the possible agreement with the PPP before the final announcement to this effect. The same group has pondered the issue last week before agreeing on the decision to involve friends in America.

It is further learnt the US political operatives in Pakistan, including the US Ambassador, have been asking the PML-Q to assess the option of lending support to the PPP and President Zardari. Interestingly, some big-guns in the Gulf are also mediating for getting this deal ashore.

The PML-Q leadership has been trying to develop some acceptable understanding out of this current political chaos with the PPP on one hand and party's majority's tilt towards the PML-N on the other. While the PML-Q is still far from taking any decision on this count, the party high-ups are gradually floating towards power-politics monitored by the US officials. The top leadership will take a final decision on this count after completing the preliminaries. It would offer the options, juxtaposed against guarantees from all sides, to the party members once all hurdles to cooperation with the PPP are removed and reservations addressed