ISLAMABAD: Members of the Sheerazi group belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and some other lawmakers in Sindh, including Arbab Ghulam Rahim, are in contact with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and may join the party in the coming days, The Express Tribune has learnt.
According to party sources, the Sheerazi group first developed differences with the PML-N’s central leadership when their candidate was ignored for appointment as Sindh governor in February last year.
Head of the group Syed Shafqat Shah Sheerazi had emerged as a strong contender for the post of Sindh governor. Shafqat has long been regarded as one of the ‘kingmakers’ in rural Sindh politics, particularly Thatta and the adjoining belt.
The group that includes PML-N MPAs Shah Hussain Shah, Aijaz Hussain Shah Sheerazi, independent MPA Amir Haider Shah Sheerazi and independent MNA Aijaz Ali Shah Sheerazi (namesake of MPA Aijaz Ali Shah Sheerazi) extensively lobbied for Shafqat’s nomination as Sindh governor.
However, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif preferred Muhammad Zubair to any candidate from rural Sindh, which caused differences between the Sheerazis and the PML-N leadership.
PML-N bigwigs trying to defuse tensions
“Since then, the Sheerazis had been waiting for the right time to part ways [with the ruling party]. This is the best time,” said a PML-N lawmaker, requesting anonymity. He said the Sheerazis were earlier assured that their candidate would be replaced with then governor Ishratul Ebad when the PML-N came into power in 2013.
In November 2016, after Ebad left the office, Justice (retd) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui was made governor while ignoring Shafqat. In January 2017, Siddiqui died and Zubair was appointed governor the next month, with Shafqat ignored again, according to insiders.
Sources said that MNA Ramesh Kumar, who left the PML-N to join the PTI a few days back, had been tasked by the PTI leadership to woo dissident lawmakers from political parties, the PML-N in particular. Apart from Sheerazi, members of Malkani and Abro families who are presently affiliated with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are also in contact with the PTI, they added.
When contacted, Shah Hussain Shah Sheerazi denied that his family was in contact with the PTI.
“We are with the PML-N right now and we haven’t been approached by any political party with invitation to join them. When the time comes, we’ll see what to do,” he told The Express Tribune.
Emerging political alternatives to PPP in Sindh
A member of the PML-N’s dissident lot in Sindh said the Sindh governor’s appointment was not the only issue that fueled differences between PML-N stalwarts from rural Sindh and the party leadership. He added that the delay in the provision of funds and apathy of the PML-N leadership towards party matters in Sindh also contributed to the situation.
In October last, PML-N lawmakers from Sindh had reportedly warned the party leadership during a meeting with PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that the PML-N would not be able to make any inroads into the province in the next general elections as it neglected its political representatives in the province.
Reportedly, the PML-N legislators, who were not happy over the non-provision of development funds in their respective constituencies, informed Abbasi that financial packages and development funds pledged by former PM Nawaz Sharif were either released only in part, or were not issued at all. Abbasi had assured the party members of allaying their concerns but the dissident lawmakers believed their reservations were not being addressed.