ISLAMABAD - The PPP may have strengthened its position in the country’s most populous province by appointing Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo as president of the party’s South Punjab chapter, but the fact is that the step has made the PPP’s alliance with the PML-Q vulnerable.

Political circles in the federal capital say that it is unclear whether the alliance will survive the challenges of the new situation. They are keenly monitoring the developments after the PML-Q expressed serious reservations about the decision taken by the PPP leadership.

President Zardari is not oblivious to the gravity of the situation and it is for this reason that he sprang into action and immediately constituted a four-member committee comprising Nazar Mohammad Gondal, Qamar Zaman Kaira, newly appointed PPP Punjab Chapter President Mian Manzoor Wattoo and outgoing president Imtiaz Safdar Warriach to meet with PML-Q leadership and pacify them before their meeting with President Zardari.

The people aware of the behind-the-scenes developments say that the appointment of Mr Wattoo served as a triggering point for the PML-Q’s outburst as for quite some time the PPP leadership appeared wavering on the agreement which had led to the entry of PML-Q into government alliance. 

The appointment of Mr Wattoo did not go well with the PML-Q leadership because of his strong clout in central Punjab districts, the region from where the PML-Q MPs had mainly won the seats in 2008 elections. The Q-League felt upset when the newly- appointed Punjab PPP chief started moves to make inroads into the stronghold of the Q-League and managed to woo some of the big families and clans who were earlier associated with Chaudhrys of Gujrat.

This made the PML-Q leadership come out with a strong reaction and threaten to part ways with the coalition government, a situation that President Asif Ali Zardari could not afford because of the game plan he had conceived about the upcoming general elections in Punjab. The PPP co-chairman relies heavily on the PML-Q to be able to deal with the PML-N. So he rushed to pacify the PML-Q leadership.

But some PPP veterans commenting on the situation said that it is not the real issue that the PML-Q leadership reacted to. In fact, they said, the PML-Q leaders are dreaming of making budding Moonis Elahi the Punjab chief minister. This dream will not come true if some PPP leader also aspires for the same slot.

Mr Wattoo is a former chief minister of Punjab and he may again try his luck if the election results are favourable to the PPP.

The PML-Q leaders feel uneasy because of the perceived backtracking of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari from the initial agreement inked when the PPP coalition with the MQM was on the verge of collapse. The PML-Q’s alliance with PPP had marginalised the importance of the MQM as after the cooperation between the erstwhile rivals it was no longer in a position to pose a threat to the government even if it bade farewell, as it has been doing in the past.  

Analysts say the PPP-PML-Q alliance agreement was tilted in favour of latter and perhaps that was the reason that some of its operative clauses could not be implemented immediately and the Chaudhrys had to wait for quite some time to see Pervez Elahi wear the mantle of the Deputy PM.

It was also agreed between the two parties that the alliance would go beyond the next general elections and the  PPP would not put up its candidates in constituencies from where the PML-Q candidates had won the 2008 elections in last general elections, or where its nominees ended up as runners up. Now that many PPP people see that the agreement puts their political future at stake, they are opposing it tooth and nail. There are indications that it would be extremely difficult for President Zardari to convince his party colleagues to accept it.

To keep the party united and avoid large-scale defections, the PPP leadership wants the  PML-Q to revisit the pact which was signed by President Zardari and Ch. Shujaat Hussain with two quite influential persons---Haji Nawaz Kokhar and Malik Riaz---as guarantors. The people close to PML-Q leadership are of the view that Chaudhrys want a surety the that in case the alliance wins the elections, Moonis will be their chief minister.

It’s time to dispatch Swiss letter: During the current week the government is supposed to send the letter to Swiss authorities to withdraw the letter earlier written by former Attorney General Malik Qayyum, as a result cases against President Asif Ali Zardari stood closed.

The text of the letter has already been approved by the Supreme Court and the government had sought time to get it translated it into French.  

Legal and constitutional experts are unanimous that writing the letter while mentioning presidential immunity would not lead to the opening of the cases against President Zardari at once. However, these cases would stand restored and could be opened once President Asif Ali Zardari ceased as the head of state. It is being hoped that with the letter sent to the Swiss authorities the political situation would undergo a change for the better.

Raja warms up Saudi ties: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has returned home after performing Haj along with his family. He was the special guest of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Though it was religious event, political analysts say the visit would help bring Pakistan and Saudi Arabia closer. The two countries have been enjoying excellent relations, but some people say that ties during the PPP rule are not as warm as they used to be. It is being expected that the impression would evaporate after the prime minister’s visit.