Feeling the political heat generated by the PPP’s long march and the opposition’s flurry of meetings with the ruling party’s allies and disgruntled members, Prime Minister Imran Khan rushed to Lahore on Tuesday to sit down with the Chaudhrys of the PML-Q and ensure they still supported him and his government in these tough times.

The PM also inquired after an ailing Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who not only assured him of their “unflinching support” to the government, but also expressed their lack of trust in the “Sharifs, who ditched us in the past. We know them all, and do not trust them”.

The Chaudhrys’ residence has been a hub of political activities over the last month or so, hosting all those who matter politically, from PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to Pakistan Demo­cratic Movement (PDM) head Maulana Fazal-ur-Reh­man, all of whom hoped to win over the government ally for a possible no-trust move.

“Shehbaz Sharif (the PML-N chief) came to inquire after my health a few days ago and offered the chief ministership (of Punjab) to Pervaiz Elahi (in exchange for voting against Imran Khan),” Shujaat is reported to have told the prime minister.

“However, we know them well and do not trust them. He had offered us the same slot (in the nineties), but backed off after winning the elections. The excuse was that his father did not agree to the proposal.

“Although he has offered it again, we don’t trust (him) and continue to stand by the government,” he assured the prime minister.

The elder Chaudhry, however, advised the PM to control inflation because the unrelenting price hike was now becoming unbearable for the masses.

Flanked by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and a number of his cabinet colleagues, the PM tried to send out a message that he was not indifferent to the all-round misery. “My top priority now is to bring down prices so that the vast majority sees an improvement in their lives.”

The Chaudhrys appreciated the government’s decision to cut fuel prices and electricity rates, as well as the industrial package unveiled on Tuesday.

PM Imran briefed the hosts about his recent visits to China and Russia.

The Chaudhrys, basking in the sunshine of their new-found political limelight, had delayed a return visit to Shehbaz Sharif, who had invited them to his place when he visited them last month.

The Chaudhrys had then promised to get in touch with the younger Sharif within two days to chalk up a date for the meeting, but kept procrastinating for a fortnight, apparently waiting for Mr Khan to show up at their place.

Both Prime Minister Imran and the PML-Q leadership have had a love-hate relationship since the PTI came to power in 2018. The unease in their relationship delayed the induction of Moonis Elahi into the federal cabinet even though promises were made to them when the post-election arrangements were being worked out.

The prime minister, however, seems to have realised late in the day that he will have to keep humouring the PML-Q heavyweights to prop up his government in the face of an onslaught by a reinvigorated opposition.

Apart from the rendezvous with the Chaudhrys, Prime Minister Imran Khan met parliamentarians from Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Multan and Sahiwal divisions, a rarity when the sailing is smooth.

He asked the legislators to reach out to voters in the build-up to local bodies’ elections.


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