Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) president Chaudhry Shujat Hussain on Wednesday, continued his long running quest of uniting all Muslim League factions into one party by meeting the leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) chief Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, popularly known as Pir Pagara and Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, an estranged leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Karachi. This is not the first time he has tried uniting the factions, and as the comments from the meeting suggested, it won’t be the last attempt either.

Despite this being a recurring – and as of yet fruitless – occurrence, the PML-N should pay attention to this development. Talks of uniting the Muslim League at a time when Nawaz’s faction is in troubled waters should be encouraged as they present an obvious benefit to the ruling party. Not only would a united party present a stronger challenge to opposition forces in the coming election, it would also help the factions reach powers haring agreement is what would otherwise be contentious elections – such as in Gujrat where Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), PML-N and PML-Q all field strong candidates. Perhaps most importantly a united Pakistan Muslim League can carry forward the legacy of the historic Muslim League and the gravitas that comes with it.

But reaching such an agreement will be difficult. PML-N and PML-Q still haven’t buried the hatchet from the latter’s defection to Pervez Musharraf when Nawaz Sharif was deposed by the army. Although PML-N has accepted numerous members of the PML-Q back into the fold, reconciling with the architects of the breakaway will be difficult.

Not least because as recently as July of this year, Shujat Hussain was on yet another mission to unite the Pakistan Muslim League factions – only this time against Nawaz Sharif. Even at the current meeting in Karachi, Shujat Hussain said that he would “only extend invitation to those Muslim Leaguers who had a clean slate” when asked about the possibility of Nawaz Sharif being part of the reconciliation. While this seems to be a strong statement that precludes any future talk of a truly united Muslim League, it is a much softer stance than the one the party had taken earlier.

Regardless of these difficulties, the PML-N should pursue this opportunity in earnest. At a time like this having a Muslim League with any qualifying initials after the name would be a strong asset.