A Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart Shah Mehmood Qureshi is in a fix over whether to join the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz or Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, sources told The Express Tribune.
The former foreign minister, who is a long-standing member of the PPP, fell out of favour with his party’s leadership in the aftermath of the Raymond Davis controversy, and has since courted other parties. Qureshi reportedly declared two days ago that he would quit the PPP.
Sources close to Qureshi say that around 20 PPP MNAs and 25 MPAs from South Punjab and interior Sindh have assured Qureshi they will follow him if he defects. Most favour the PML-N, though some are arguing in favour of PTI.
Qureshi accepts that the PML-N is a stronger party, but he is also believed to think that his group would be more dominant in the smaller PTI. However, if Qureshi joins the PTI rather than the PML-N, he is unlikely to receive significant support.
Sources in the PML-N said that a few weeks ago Qureshi met with PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, who informed him that his supporters would be warmly welcomed.
The two leaders recently held another backdoor meeting in Islamabad where it was decided that Qureshi would contact PPP dissident Dr Zulfiqar Mirza during his visit to interior Sindh in November.
The agenda of this possible meeting was not disclosed.
It is also believed that Qureshi’s negotiations with the PTI are ongoing, though Qureshi has informed PTI chief Imran Khan that his supporters have reservations over joining the party.
PTI’s Central Information Secretary Omar Sarfraz Cheema said that Qureshi was indeed in negotiations with the PTI, but that it was premature to elaborate. Asked about Khan’s recent statement that a large number of PPP members would soon join the PTI, he said that other political figures in addition to Qureshi were in touch with the party.
Qureshi himself told The Express Tribune that in his October 4 speech in the National Assembly he expressed his disappointment with the current regime. Qureshi’s frustration, it seems, is echoed by several PPP MPAs and MNAs.
Asking for their names not to be used, the members told The Express Tribune that the government had disappointed its voters, and that President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had ignored the party’s MPAs.
Qureshi admitted he was in touch with both Sharif and Khan, but said that he had not yet made up his mind about joining another party. He said that he has worked with Sharif as his finance minister, and he had no differences with PML-N MNA Javed Hashmi. He added that he had always had a good relationship with Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2011.