Shujaat Hussain defies Musharraf, refuses to quit as PML(Q) chief

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Islamabad, May 5 (UNI) Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has refused to step down, in a clear defiance of President Pervez Musharraf's desire.

Instead of quitting the party post as desired by Musharraf during a meeting, Mr Hussain has sought from him details of concessions the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) would offer in exchange for PML-Q's cooperation in the event of PML-N pulling out of the coalition, if deposed judges were not restored as per agreement.

Dawn newspaper quoted sources as saying that Chaudhry Shujaat not only refused to step down as demanded by the president, but also mounted a counter-offensive by asking him to come up with details of PPP's offers for the PML-Q, so that the party can discuss them.

The PML-Q chief said in the Saturday meeting that if the PPP needed his party's cooperation, it should discuss the matter with him, instead of with the presidency or some 'political adventurers', the sources said.

In another surprising development at a meeting held in Islamabad yesterday, PML-Q leaders had reposed confidence in the leadership of Mr Hussain. They were of the view that any move to oust him would weaken the party.

According to the sources, the president, realising his political weakness and dependence on the PML-Q, has backed off and there is no possibility now of a change of guards in the PML-Q.

Mr Hussain said he would have no objection if the presidency wanted to facilitate talks between the PML-Q and the PPP. But such an effort must be based on ''the incentives that the PPP was offering rather than adjusting the leaderships of other parties to its wishes'', he said.

''President Musharraf's meeting with Mr Hussain was a grim reminder of the retired army general's receding influence on the party which he had put in place,'' the paper said.

According to the sources, Mr Hussain reminded the President that over 3,500 party members had elected him in 2006 to the post of party chief for a three-year term and only they could remove him.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has said a change in the PML-Q leadership is not on the cards.

Talking to journalists after returning to Lahore from Islamabad where he had met President Musharraf, Mr Elahi said that only the general council comprising 3,500 office-bearers of the party was authorised to take a decision about changing the leadership because it had elected Mr Hussain and him as central and provincial presidents.

The PML-Q leaders believe that President Musharraf moved to replace Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervaiz to ensure a workable relationship with the PPP and to avoid his impeachment or clipping of his powers by parliament. The sources said the president wanted a person with good relations with Mr Zardari to head the PML-Q.

They said Mr Zardari had told the president that he was ready to have better ties with the PML-Q minus the Chaudhrys. ''I think the presidency is not in a position now to dictate us,'' a senior leader of the PML-Q said.

He said it was better for the president to concentrate on holding dialogue with the two major political parties. ''The Q-League is already with him. If he interferes in PML-Q's affairs then he will be losing his footing. He will weaken himself.

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