MULTAN / KARACHI: For the estranged Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, crossing over to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was a nerve-wracking, 48-hour long ordeal.
The former PML-N senior vice president took a flight from Multan to Karachi on Saturday morning, leaving in his wake a slew of surprised party supporters and political observers, and walked into the arms of a beaming Imran Khan.
Hashmi was received in Karachi by the PTI chief and the two made their way to a press conference, where other party leaders, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen, flanked their newest colleague.
Hashmi is the third southern Punjab stalwart, after Qureshi and Sikander Bosan, to join the PTI.
Khan said it was a day of happiness, and that Hashmi had joined the PTI with “no demands and no conditions”.
Hashmi spoke of his admiration for Khan as a cricketer, and said that he had joined PTI on an ideological stance. He said he had spoken for many of the same things as Khan, such as the assets of politicians and lamented that “we are in an era of the demise of accountability”.
Hashmi said he had informed the PML-N of his decision, but said that he had been awake for the previous 48 hours, a sign that negotiations between him and the party had been underway.
“I understand that my supporters are upset. Some of them fell at my feet and cried. But I had to overlook their pain and cross over,” he said.
Hashmi also responded to PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah’s statement that the establishment “hijacked Hashmi”, by saying that the PML-N had actually hijacked him in Lahore and would not let him leave until 2 am. “In Multan, the media hijacked me at 5 am and now I’m here and I haven’t slept for 48 hours.”
Imran Khan said that people needed to prove what support the establishment had given to PTI.
Hashmi did not criticise his former party leader Nawaz Sharif, or Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. He said the two had always treated him with respect, even when he critiqued Sharif.
Qureshi welcomed his former rival into the party as well.
“This is a new thing in politics that people are thinking above their interests and for a united, prosperous Pakistan.”
He also “welcomed” the statement issued by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Friday, and said that, “This is a new kind of thought that institutions are being supported. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has also said that the doctrine of necessity has been buried.
“There is no need for extra constitutional measures and PTI will not support this. The current government has dug a hole for itself with the rise in corruption and poor governance,” Qureshi said.
Earlier, at Multan airport, Hashmi dispelled the notion of any friction between former rivals – himself and Qureshi – and said that Qureshi has changed his constituency, and will now contest from Multan city.
Khan, however, did not confirm reports that Hashmi will be chief organiser for the PTI. When asked by a reporter if the report was true, Khan dismissed it and reiterated that Hashmi had joined the party without any demands. Qureshi, meanwhile, told The Express Tribuneon Friday that if Hashmi joins, he wouldn’t outrank Qureshi since “he won’t be given a position higher to mine”.
PML-N protests, PTI celebrates
Several PML-N members rallied in Multan, under provincial minister Ahsanuddin Qureshi. The members resorted to aerial firing, and Qureshi claimed that Hashmi never did anything good for the party and his departure was a good riddance. Protests were also organised in Jhang, Sargodha, Layyah, Muzzafargarh, Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur.
Meanwhile, PTI’s south Punjab wing held demonstrations to celebrate his move.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2011.