In an en masse defection before the next general elections, 11 federal and provincial lawmakers from the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid jumped ship on Friday to join the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
The lawmakers – nine PPP MPAs in the Punjab Assembly and two PML-Q MNAs – vowed allegiance to the PML-N in the presence of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan at the former’s office 90 Shahra-e-Quad-e-Azam in Lahore.
Those who switched loyalties are PPP MPAs Rana Munawar Ghous, Sardar Kamil Gujjar, Abbas Zafar Hiraj, Uzma Bukhari, Javed Allauddin, Qaiser Iqbal Sandho, Rana Babar, Jamil Shah and Nishat Daha; and PML-Q MNAs Dewan Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari and Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla. Bukhari’s spouse Samiullah Khan, who is former general secretary of PPP’s Punjab chapter, also joined the PML-N.
Welcoming the newcomers, Shahbaz Sharif said the swelling ranks of the PML-N showed that it was the most popular party of the country and its popularity ratings were growing with each passing day. The inclusion of sitting legislators [from both the PPP and PML-Q] would boost the PML-N’s electoral chances, he added.
Speaking to the media, Chaudhry Nisar claimed that a large number of PPP politicians, including sitting lawmakers, wanted to join the PML-N – but his party would welcome only those who met its criteria. “President Asif Ali Zardari will receive such shocking news whenever he visits Lahore,” he added.
President Zardari spent the past one week at the newly built Bilawal House in Lahore holding a series of meetings with PPP politicians from central Punjab. But interestingly, most of the PPP lawmakers who joined the PML-N on Friday belong to central Punjab.
Referring to the PML-Q, Chaudhry Nisar said the PML-N would welcome back all those politicians who quit the party under pressure from former military ruler Pervez Musharraf but did not harm the party. However, he said, the party has slammed the door shut on those who cheated it and implicated its workers in false cases.
Chaudhry Nisar blamed President Zardari for inflicting “irreparable damage” on the PPP and said the Pakistan Peoples Party founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has become a “Zardari League”. He said his party was focused on the next parliamentary election and, if voted to power, would steer the country out of the prevailing crises.
Chaudhry Nisar said he hasn’t received any letter from Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf seeking consultation on an interim set-up. Constitutionally, a caretaker premier has to be picked by the incumbent leader of the house in consultation with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
Chaudhry Nisar said his party would also seek input from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) and Jamaat-e-Islami on an interim government. He added that the PML-N would soon unveil its two nominees for the office of caretaker prime minister.
Chaudhry Nisar said the PML-N would contest the next elections in three provinces [Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa] as part of a ‘grand alliance’. According to him, Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to meet PML-F chief Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi on Friday but could not fly to Karachi due to bad weather. The two leaders will launch the ‘grand alliance’ in Sindh next week, he said.
In K-P, the PML-N would form an electoral alliance with the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led JUI-F and Awami Wattan Party (erstwhile PPP-S) of Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Similarly, the PML-N would form an alliance with nationalist parties in Balochistan to sweep the next elections in the province, Chaudhry Nisar said. He revealed that the PML-N was also working out a seat adjustment formula with Jamaat-e-Islami in Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.