LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, once a bit-player in national politics, is rapidly gaining stature in the lead up to the 2013 elections. A faction of the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid Likeminded group – itself a dissident group that split from the main PML-Q – is likely to join forces with the PTI in coming days, sources told The Express Tribune.
The faction includes in its midst shrewd politicians like Hamid Nasir Chattha, Khurshid Kasuri, Mian Asif, Chaudhry Amir Hussain Gujjar, Nasrullah Dareeshak, Afzal Sahi and Gohar Ayub Khan.
Senior leaders of the likeminded group met in Lahore on Tuesday where they decided to forge an alliance with the PTI in the next election. They will meet PTI chief Imran Khan one last time either on Wednesday (today) or Thursday (tomorrow) to finalise the makeup of such an alliance. Sources said that the details of an alliance had been all but agreed upon and only a final announcement remained.
PTI spokesman Omer Sarfraz Cheema confirmed that the PML-Q Likeminded faction would be meeting with Imran over the next couple of days, but provided no further details.
Mian Asif also confirmed to The Express Tribune that negotiations were ongoing with the PTI and provided more names of the group that had decided to forge an alliance with the former cricketer’s party. Riaz Fatiana, Sardar Talib Hassan Nakai, and Nisar Muhammad Khan from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were among the names he mentioned.
The decision to split away from the dissident faction was made after several members of PML-Q Likeminded felt annoyed with their leadership’s decision to join the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). Many were particularly irked by the fact that the Likeminded leadership had secured PML-N electoral nominations for themselves and not having catered to the interest of the group as a whole.
The PML-N, meanwhile, has been joined by the rest of the PML-Q Likeminded in addition to Pakistan Peoples Party dissident Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a former foreign minister, as well as his supporters.
Sources said that some Likeminded leaders – such as Kasuri, Dareshak, and Chattha – had advocated a grand right-wing alliance similar to the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad of the late 1980s and early 1990s, inviting the Jamaat-e-Islami to join them in a coalition with the PTI.
It appears that none of the four senators in the Likeminded faction are yet part of the push to join an alliance with the PTI. Senators Humayun Akhtar, Saleem Saifullah and Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi are still engaged in talks with PML-N’s Senator Ishaq Dar for a possible tie-up between those two groups.
It appears that the PML-N is also picking and choosing which members of the PML-Q Likeminded faction it wants to welcome back into the fold. (Most PML-Q members were originally part of the PML-N before having been ‘persuaded’ by former president Pervez Musharraf to join his custom-made party.)
Sources said that the PML-N has already made a deal with some PML-Q Likeminded members such as Kashmala Tariq from Punjab and Arbab Ghulam Rahim and his supporters from Sindh. The PML-N appears disinterested in making deals with others in the party.
Mian Asif, meanwhile, had also been holding talks with Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rasheed (another dissident from the PML-Q) on Monday to invite him into the alliance with the PTI, but Rasheed is reportedly holding out for a deal with the Sharif family.
Asif expects the Likeminded-PTI alliance to give the Sharif’s PML-N a tough time in Punjab, particularly in their heartland of Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2011.
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