LAHORE - Keeping in view the possibility of snap polls, the PML-Q in a bid to get support from the ‘vital vote pocket’ of the religious forces has, for the first time, launched a political offensive to woo the ‘meaningful’ religious parties for forming an electoral alliance in Punjab, The Nation has learnt.

The PML-Q, which formed the government after the 2002 polls, could not attract the religious-minded voters, as the JUI-F, JI and the some parties, currently member of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), were then part of a united religious amalgam Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and reached the assemblies under its banner.

Sources in the PML-Q privy to the developments told this correspondent on Sunday that the top brass had decided to focus the vote bank of the religious parties in an effort to counter its opponents in Punjab, who managed victory in some important constituencies with their support.

They quoted the party leaders as saying PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and senior leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s meetings with the JUI-F, JI and SIC leaderships were just a ‘starter’ of the initiative, adding that ‘meaningful meetings’ were expected to start very soon.

They added that the PML-Q leaders and its counterparts in the religious parties were working on a common minimum agenda for reaching a decision to form an electoral alliance. According to the sources, the party leaders say the PML-Q leadership was targeting the SIC, JI and some factions of Ahle-Hadith parties, as the support pockets of the JUI-F mainly exits in some districts of the province, bordering Balochistan.

However, they added that the PML-Q and JUI-F would prove more mutually beneficial in Khyber Pk and Balochistan. While informing this scribe about the priority list, they further maintained that the SIC leadership, believed to be close to the PML-N leadership, had become a strong critic of the provincial government after the attacks on Sufi shrines in Punjab, allegedly carried out by another religious school of thought close to some of the important leaders of the Nawaz League, adding that the ‘hate factor’ could be a great political significance in next elections.

They maintained that the JI, which also assisted the PML-N to grab some important seats from the province in the past, had now taken a tough line against the PML-N for quite some time and the PML-Q leadership was very keen to get them onboard for a would-be electoral alliance.

The SIC chief, Haji Fazal Karim, got elected from Faisalabad in 2008 polls on the ticket of PML-N. Similarly, Prof Sajid Mir, head of Markazi Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, also reached Senate thanks to the PML-N.

The SIC developed differences with the PML-N leadership after the alleged reluctance of its leadership in taking swift action against the perpetrators of the attacks on the Sufi shrines, owing to their close ties with some top members of the ruling party of the province.

However, it might not be ruled out that the SIC leadership’s contacts with the PML-Q were part of their strategy to strike a better political bargain with the PML-N. Sources told this reporter that the PML-Q would try to get the support of Ahle Hadith factions’ of Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer and Abdul Ghaffar Ropari, opponents to of the Sajid Mir group.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha, central secretary information of PML-Q, when contacted, neither denied nor confirmed the reports, but said, “Yes, the top party leadership is contacting the religious forces in a broader national perspective; however, serving ones political interest, which shape into an electoral alliance, is a right of every political party.”

He added that the party’s high command was in continuous contact with the politically active religious parties and meaningful parleys would between the two sides expected to take place very soon.