Ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is inching towards its goal of piecing together a ‘grand political alliance’.
After assimilating the Sindh National Front, the party has engaged the PML-Likeminded, a breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PMLQ).
“The two sides have reached an agreement on forming a political alliance, which general secretaries of the two parties will announce at a joint news conference today (Saturday) in Raiwind,” sources told The Express Tribune.
According to PML-N’s information cell, the conference will be preceded by a meeting between a delegation of the Likeminded group and Nawaz Sharif.
The Likeminded group, led by Hamid Nasir Chattha, has some of the political heavyweights of Punjab and Sindh including Humayun Akhtar and Arbab Ghulam Rahim.
Former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri was also one of the office-bearers of the party before he defected to join the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf a few months back.
Last year, the Likeminded group had entered into negotiations with PTI Chairman Imran Khan to discuss a possible alliance. But the talks broke down after Imran asked Likeminded leaders to join his party individually or collectively.
The Likeminded group split, with Chattha and his supporters favouring an alliance with the PTI, while Humayun Akhtar pushing for joining hands with the PML-N. Sources, however, say that on Saturday both groups would join hands with the PML-N.
Sources said that it took Akhtar a lot of efforts to convince Chattha to agree to an alliance as the latter and Nawaz have been political rivals since 1993.
Sources privy to the contents of the draft agreement say that after an alliance, Likeminded leaders will contest elections on PML-N tickets. The PML-N, in turn, has agreed to allot party tickets for the National Assembly to 13 Likeminded politicians.
Likeminded leaders will be given five seats in Punjab. Of which Akhtar and Mian Asif will get one each from Lahore; Chattha and Iqbal Dar one each from Gujranwala, and another from Kasur will also be given to the Likeminded group.
Three seats in the National Assembly for lawmakers from Sindh will be offered to Arbab Ghulam Rahim, his brother, and former senator Ghaffar Qureshi. Likeminded group’s Kashmala Tariq will be given a reserved seat for women from both sides.
Sources in the Likeminded group, however, said that they have put the condition of contesting the elections under their own symbol and that both parties establish separate parliamentary boards for the issuance of tickets.
They added that Chattha was to try and convince Nawaz of the same, arguing that the Likeminded group has potential ‘hot’ candidates on 31 seats, while the PML-N was only granting it 13.
The strategy in Sindh will be for both parties to keep PPP candidates out of the mix.
Sources believe that Nawaz would use Chattha to launch an offensive against the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and seek Shujaat Hussain’s disqualification as president of the PML-Q.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.