ISLAMABAD: Mutahidda Muslim League could be led by an elite group with equal powers rather than an individual as negotiating factions wrestle for the top slot, The Nation learnt. The would-be partners disagree on accepting Pervez Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain or Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi - Pir Pagara – as the boss, political sources said.

“This proposal is under consideration. There may be a group of three to four people who will jointly lead the alliance. The merger of the factions to form a new party at this point is out of question. Nobody is comfortable with the idea except the Pervez Musharraf group,” senior Leaguer Senator Kamil Ali Agha told The Nation.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) lawmaker claimed major factions were not ready to accept Pervez Musharraf as the head of the alliance. “Pervez Musharraf wants a new party by merging the factions but this has not been approved by others. So the talks now are on forming an alliance of the Leagues while keeping the identities intact,” he added.

Senator Agha said, another meeting of the top leaders will be held on September 28 or 29 where the parties hope to find a solution. He hinted once the Leagues had joined hands as part of an alliance, they will contact the like-mined parties including the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf to become partners. “It will be an electoral alliance. The merger into one party means accepting a single leader which seems impossible,” he remarked.

He said, Musharaf’s camp was still trying to convince others to accept the former military ruler as head of the MML and launch it as a party rather than an alliance.

“We believe Musharraf won’t be the leader even if all the factions agree to merge and form a new party. The main groups (PML-Q and PML-Functional) want a lead role themselves. Practically, we can only foresee an alliance and that can be named MML or anything,” Senator Agha elaborated. The seasoned legislator said, an elite group including top leaders of the factions can spearhead the MML jointly in the next general elections.

Secretary General All Pakistan Muslim League Dr Amjed Chaudhry told The Nation that his party was committed to unify the League factions. “I think if we have to form alliance, we can do so with several other parties too. The idea to bring together the League faction is to unite them. The APML thinks it is possible. Pervez Musharraf is the most prominent among them so he should lead the MML,” he argued.

Chaudhry said, the League factions had the same ideology but were opposing each other due to the differences on leadership. “They need to find a person who can keep them united and Pervez Musharraf is that man,” he maintained. He said, once the League factions have been merged into a party, other parties such as the PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami could be contacted to form a bigger bloc.

“Alliance would be with the other parties. We need to start with a bigger party and for that we need to merge the factions. We are reasonably sure the differences on the unification will be sorted out and MML will become a party not a loose alliance,” the APML leader contended. Chaudhry believed, the leaders of the PML-Q and PML-F can be accommodated by giving them senior positions in the new party and appointing their nominees as key office bearers in the Punjab and Sindh provinces.

Some factions of the Leagues registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan include PML-N, PML-Qasim, PML-Qayyum Group, PML, PML-Zia, Pakistan Fatima Jinnah Muslim League, PML-Sher-e-Bangal, AML, Pakistan National Muslim League, APML, PML-Muttahida, People’s Muslim League, Pakistan Muslim League Council, Pakistan Muslim League Democratic, Muttahida Muslim League, PML-Safdar, PML-Likeminded, PML-Junejo, PML-Nazaryati and PML-Zehri Group.

Musharraf, who quit power in 2008, returned to Pakistan in 2013 after living abroad in self-imposed exile. He hoped to revive his political career but found himself entangled in a number of legal issues instead. Musharraf was indicted for his alleged role in the 2007 assassination of his rival Benazir Bhutto. He has been charged with “murder, criminal conspiracy to murder, and facilitation of murder”. Musharraf has denied these charges against him. 

For the next general elections, however, the former military ruler is optimistic of making a comeback. The proposal to form the MML is part of his efforts to challenge the PML (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party. A PTI lawmaker said his party has not so far been contacted to become part of the Musharraf-led alliance. “I don’t think we will join hands with them but can’t rule out talks with any party. We will cross that bridge when we reach there. As far as I know, Imran Khan will not agree to an alliance with Pervez Musharraf and company,” he commented.