The Abbottabad operation may have happened in the morning, but that did not stop the oath-taking of the PML-Q in the federal cabinet in the evening. The PML-Q, founded for power, was back where it belonged, in office. It was a creation of the Musharraf era, and just as the Pakistan Army seems condemned to reprise the role of the Raj-era army in India, the politicians comprising the PML-Q seem condemned to living out the PHP joke. It is said that there is only one party in Pakistan, the Pakistan Hukumati Party, or PHP, to which these members always belong. Their slogan is supposed to be that they do not change loyalties, but governments do. These are the people who (in the Punjab) started out as Unionists before partition, then joined the Muslim League, were then Republicans, and then were ousted from politics through EBDO. Their sons bounced back as members of the Convention Muslim League. Then they joined the PPP in 1970, at the latest in 1977. But after taking full part in the local body polls of 1979 and 1983, they went into the PML. Here, they vacillated between it and the PPP. If they stayed with the PML, after joining the PML-J in 1993, they then joined the PPP for the 2002 polls. If they at some stage found themselves in the PPP, they then became 'Patriots immediately after that election, and then went into the PML-Q in time for the 2008 polls. Not being used to the opposition, especially to a provincial government, the party split, with some going into the Unification Bloc, upon which the Punjab government rests after the PPP went into opposition. There have been three developments: first, the PPP needed the PML-Q at once, and quite badly; second, the PML-Q found it was no longer the party of the military, at least not for sure, not after Pervez Musharraf founded his own PML; and finally, the PML-Q faced the arrest of the son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in the NICL case. Chaudhry Pervaiz, now the ranking PML-Q Federal Minister, was former Punjab Chief Minister. Chaudhry Moonis case is often credited with taking the PML-Q towards the PPP, and it should be recalled that the PPP government tried to intervene in the ongoing investigation by transferring the investigation officer, and by moving the Director Lahore. Chaudhry Moonis represents a new generation of the party, and would be the third generation of his family to play a political role. The first generation, represented by Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, Chaudhry Shujaats father and Chaudhry Pervaizs paternal uncle and father-in-law (and thus Mooniss maternal grandfather, apart from being his paternal great-uncle), also provided the real reason for surprise. Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervaiz (by virtue of being a son-in-law as well as a nephew) were considered a barrier to joining the PPP because Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi was murdered almost 30 years ago by an Al-Zulfikar assassin. The labelling by Asif Zardari in 2008 of the PML-Q as the 'Qatil League perhaps owed itself not so much to genuine belief as to the partys having the Chaudhrys of Gujrat on board. Yet, the Chaudhrys and President Zardari understood where the other was coming from. After all, both knew that while Chaudhry Zahoor had been murdered by an Al-Zulfikar assassin, it had been in 1981 - 30 years ago in September. More or less, all involved in the killing were dead. The killer had been hanged, the founders of Al-Zulfikar had died violent deaths. The President was merely their brother-in-law, and also had an antipathy with one of them. However, Chaudhry Zahoors example remains important, because he continued his opposition to the PPP after the 1970 election. He did so because of local Gujrat politics, which provided a block to the alliance, because if the alliance continues to the giving of tickets, the PPP will be faced with an impossible choice. It will either have to upset the heads of their new ally, or their own party loyalists, one of whom is Defence Minister, the other a PM Advisor. The Defence Minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, will be a particularly painful choice, for he reaches the National Assembly by defeating Chaudhry Shujaat, in a very competitive contest. That is just the first problem, for those in the PML-Q now supporting the PPP government, and those in the PPP who have been doing so all along, are doing so because they defeated someone from the opposing party, someone who is still in the field, and who will fight the next election, preferably from the winning party, but from any party if needed. Apart from local politics, Chaudhry Zahoor also lived out a larger truth, that the PPP absorbed any PML factions that became allied to it. The first example, and the biggest to date, was the Council League, centred around former Punjab Chief Minister Mumtaz Daultana, who accepted the London Embassy while his party went into the PPP. The Council Muslim League consisted of those Leaguers who did not accept Ayub Khans takeover of the party as President, an office to which he was elected by a Convention. The Council League consisted of those who backed Daultana, elected by the General Council. The 1970 elections saw the Convention also contesting, but suffering a rout, now that its patron was no longer in office. The predictions of a dire fate for the PML-Q seem mostly based on what would happen to it after it had been abandoned by its military patron. Battered, the League factions were to come together under the Pir Pagaro, though one faction, the Qayyum League, had enough seats to attract the PPP, and its leader, Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, accepted the Interior Ministry. Chaudhry Zahoor had been a prominent Convention Leaguer, but so had been PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, both having served as Secretary General of the party, with Ayub as President. The PML, after a brief period of unity, split again over remaining in the anti-Zia Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The split was supposed to be on council-convention lines, but the faction with Malik Qasim as head remained within the MRD, and Qasims alliance with the PPP under the PDA aegis in1990, saw him Leader of the Senate, the position he held when he died. It could be argued that Bhuttos own party, apart from being a personal vehicle, was actually a form of Muslim League, or at least of the Convention League, many of whom he had brought along to his new party. It must not be forgotten that Mujeebur Rehmans Awami League had once been the Awami Muslim League, a post-partition faction founded by Mian Iftikhharuddin. One reason for the Muslim League being so popular was the fact that it spearheaded the freedom struggle. Another was that it provided the only model of a successful party that most politicians had known. Whereas the PML-Q might find it difficult to avoid its inevitable fate after the 'desertion of General Musharraf and after making an alliance with the PPP, the MQM, which joined the Cabinet a week later, may be better off. The MQM has been part of the Sindh and central governments continuously since 1988, and have not only survived alliances with both the PPP and the PML-N, but have also kept their electoral base undented. Their alliance with the PML-Q may well be a first step in their coming to the Punjab, where the PML-Qs leadership is based. n Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk