Politicians gear up to sell loyalties for election tickets

Top parties are struggling to keep hold of loyalists while trying to woo members from opponents

Umer Farooq April 17, 2018

PESHAWAR: With just over a month left before the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assembly wraps up its term, the season for changing political affiliation has begun.

Some have opted to join the ruling party. Others are either leaving or are being forced to leave as the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) weighs its options ahead of the impending general elections.

The PTI and its chief opponent, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), are both looking to strengthen themselves in the upcoming polls.

With top party leaders mired in corruption allegations, the PML-N has found itself struggling to keep a hold of its loyalists.

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Last week, PML-N’s former provincial information secretary Nasir Musazai left to join the PTI. Another PML-N stalwart and a member of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assembly Arbab Wasim, has also joined the PTI.

Wasim, who had been elected to the K-P assembly from PK-8 Peshawar VIII during the by-polls in 2016. He had contested for the seat after his brother Arbab Akbar Hayat, who had won the seat during the 2013 general elections, passed away.

According to PML-N leaders, Wasim had developed differences with the party leadership since he was not being considered for a party ticket.

“After Wasim learnt that the PML-N leadership was not considering him for a party ticket, he [Wasim] announced to contest the by-polls as independent candidate,” local party leaders told The Express Tribune adding, “to avoid a confrontation and to contain the situation, the provincial PML-N leadership awarded him a ticket.”

The party leaders stated that even when Wasim made it to the provincial assembly, his PML-N colleagues never considered him to be one of them. They added that “Wasim was closer to the K-P chief minister than to the PML-N provincial president Amir Muqam.”

Wasim, though, pointed to internal squabbling in the PML-N for his decision.

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“The only reason for leaving the PML-N for the PTI is the lack of trust in provincial leadership since the leadership [referring to PML-N K-P President Muqam], has nothing to do with strengthening PML-N, rather he focuses on his own group of people,” was the way Wasim responded to queries from The Express Tribune.

Wasim stated that party workers and loyalists were being ignored in favour of newcomers. Moreover, he claimed that people in his constituency were being ‘victimised’.

“This is not only with me, you will see many more [leaders] leaving the party for other parties with a majority for the PTI and the only reason everyone will present will be the attitude of the PML-N provincial leadership,” Wasim said. He warned that the PML-N will not survive in K-P with such leadership.

Not bulletproof

The PML-N, however, is not the only party suffering defections. Many PTI members who became disgruntled with the provincial leadership, are set to leave the party as well.

Once again, the running theme has been the party looking to ‘new blood’ to hand electoral tickets in the upcoming general polls.

“Yes, there are many including Yaseen Khalil, who served as the chief minister’s advisor, apart from Qurban Ali, who lead a group of disgruntled members,” a senior PTI leader said, adding that there were a number of provincial assembly members who were expected to change loyalties with some joining and some leaving the PTI.

Those likely to miss out on party tickets were those MPAs who had voted against the party’s decided candidates during the recently held senate polls. Others who were facing the axe were those who the party considered to have failed to come up to the required expectations.

“Neither I, nor they consider me as a PTI member anymore and I do not think I will be contesting the next elections on a PTI ticket,” Ali confirmed to The Express Tribune, adding that the day they raised their voice against injustice and corrupt practices with the chief minister, the government blocked their developmental funds.

“As soon as we made an alliance and went to the courts, I stopped receiving money from the funds issued for developmental projects,” Ali informed, adding “no, I have yet to take a final decision [for changing party] but the Awami National Party (ANP) and others have been approaching me.”

Khalil, on the other hand, was of the view that he had never been part of the disgruntled party members, adding that there had been some misunderstandings in the past but matters have since normalised.

“I have never been their ally and I am not going to join any other political party,” Khalil told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2018.

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