Close friends of President Asif Ali Zardari living in the United Arab Emirates have approached former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in an effort to get him to rejoin the Pakistan Peoples Party, or at least to persuade him not to ally with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Sources privy to the development said that the mediators met with Qureshi on November 18 to discuss the matter. “He did not categorically refuse to reconcile with the president.”
Sources said that the presidency had conveyed to Qureshi that his resignation from the party had not yet been accepted. Qureshi announced on November 14 that he was resigning from the party (in his words, “the Zardari League”) as well as his seat in the National Assembly.
Qureshi, who is due to return to Pakistan on November 21 and meet PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif the next day, told the president’s emissaries that he would make his final decision after meeting Sharif.
Sources said the PPP would not accept Qureshi’s resignation before then. They added that the party had done a rough survey in the former foreign minister’s constituency, NA-148, and found that he would easily win a by-election there.
The president is “very worried” about the possibility of Qureshi joining the PML-N, said a PPP source, as this would hurt the PPP vote-bank in upper Sindh and southern Punjab. He confirmed the president was seeking to bring Qureshi back into the PPP, but it was premature to say whether this would happen.
PPP MPA Dr Akhtar Malik, a close ally of Qureshi whose PP-202 constituency falls within the boundaries of NA-148, said that there had been contact between the two sides but refused to elaborate. He said Qureshi’s meeting with Nawaz would “clear 60 per cent of the smoke” around his future. Malik said that the presidency had also approached him to reconcile but he had refused and told them that he stood with Qureshi.
PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira and presidential spokesman Farahatullah Babar were not available for comment.
Punjab Assembly supporters
Meanwhile, Qureshi’s so-called two-member forward bloc in the Punjab Assembly is already showing strains, with one of the members indicating that he will remain loyal to the PPP. Malik Abbas Raan said that he had met with PPP leader Raja Riaz on November 17 and assured him of his support, provided his demands were met.
Raan said though he had welcomed Qureshi at the Multan Airport when the former foreign minister announced his exit from the PPP, he could not quit his MPA and party positions until he got permission to do so from his constituents.
However, sources said that Raan was quitting because he had not been guaranteed support for his re-election. Raan is a member of the Punjab Assembly from PP-20, which is also within the boundaries of NA-148.
Sources said that when Qureshi had last discussed the matter with the PML-N, the party had agreed to letting Dr Malik win back PP-202, but had not agreed to support Raan at PP-201.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2011.