LAHORE: Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi seems to have got what he wants from Nawaz Sharif. The contract is drawn up – but he is still to sign on the dotted line.
In a three-hour-long meeting Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Nawaz Sharif at Raiwind on Tuesday, Qureshi managed to convince Nawaz to adopt his preferred seat adjustment arrangement in south Punjab and interior Sindh for the 2013 general elections – a situation whereby Qureshi will have a strong chance to oust archrival Prime Minister Gilani in the Multan division.
Sources privy to the discussion in the meeting also said that Qureshi has decided to join the PML-N but has sought two days to contemplate and consult. He will formally announce his decision on November 27 in a large public gathering in Ghotki, Sindh.
In Multan, sources said, Qureshi will contest from his traditional seat, NA-148, along with candidates for the provincial assembly that he will nominate. Meanwhile, in Sindh, the PML-N will award tickets to Qureshi’s nominees for both the national and provincial assemblies. Qureshi will also woo his former party’s parliamentarians hailing from south Punjab and interior Sindh.
This seat adjustment, said sources, was discussed between Qureshi and Mamnoon Hussain, a member of PML-N’s think tank, and immediately approved by Nawaz. The three-hour-long meeting was also attended by PML-N’s top leaders including Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Deputy General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal.
In a surprisingly accommodating move, Nawaz asked PML-N stalwart Javed Hashmi to withdraw his request for an election 2013 ticket for his son-in-law Zahid Bihar Hashmi. The PML-N leader had earlier asked Nawaz to award Zahid a ticket for PP-202, which falls in Qureshi’s constituency (NA-148). Sources said that Qureshi, who defeated Hashmi in NA-148 in the 2008 general elections, strongly opposed the move but the matter was resolved amicably as Hashmi withdrew and gave the Sharif brothers the go-ahead to openly welcome Qureshi to the PML-N.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after the meeting, Qureshi said he had not arrived at a decision yet but his answers seemed to betray where his loyalties were leaning. Asked about Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, he said that he has had a good relationship with PTI chief Imran Khan since school days but refrained from saying anything more. Qureshi demanded an independent election commission and a neutral set up to conduct free, fair and transparent elections in 2013. “Although the chief justice has said that it is not the judiciary’s function to oversee elections, the Supreme Court should do so,” he said, also demanding that the prime minister and president be removed from office as the nation wanted to oust these ‘corrupt leaders’.
Qureshi stressed on the need of a fair investigation into the Memogate scandal and welcomed Hussain Haqqani’s resignation as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.
He said that in the meeting they discussed his resignation from the National Assembly and he convinced Nawaz to quit the house and go to the people for the next election.
Criticising Gilani, he said that as prime minister, his function is to oversee national issues but he is inviting councillors and UC nazims of his constituency to his office and instigating them against Qureshi. “Police have surrounded the venue of my public meeting at Ghotki and is harassing organisers while PPP Sindh ministers are visiting the area to see how they can sabotage the meeting,” he alleged.
Edited by Zainab Imam
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2011.