LAHORE: While Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Abdul Qadir campaigns in southern Punjab, particularly Multan division, fresh-out-of-the-Pakistan Peoples Party Shah Mahmood Qureshi could be plotting the premier’s ouster. And his best bet to that end could be the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
In a meeting scheduled for today between Qureshi and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in Raiwind, Lahore, they will discuss two strategies: a previously-discussed seat adjustment in the division and an alliance with a Qureshi-led breakaway faction of the PPP leaders from south Punjab.
“Qureshi’s main agenda with regards to seat adjustment, particularly in Multan, is Gilani’s removal from the country’s next parliament,” a source familiar with the matter said. Many serving PPP MNAs from South Punjab, who have expressed their support to Qureshi, have already met Nawaz to discuss seat adjustment in the division, the source added.
Confirming that support to a Qureshi-led group is being considered, a senior PML-N leader told The Express Tribune that although the process of a seat adjustment has begun, Sharif and Qureshi will contemplate which of the two strategies can weaken the PPP the most in South Punjab and interior Sindh – areas which are dominated by the ruling party.
Furthermore, said another source, Qureshi is likely to negotiate with Nawaz for the slot of chief minister of Punjab.
But PML-N’s central information secretary Mushahidullah Khan chose his words carefully when asked about the meeting. “It will be very significant and Qureshi will most probably join PML-N. In principle, we have decided to support Qureshi’s each and every move,” he said.
The Multan division has six National Assembly seats from NA-148 to NA-153, and with the proposed seat adjustment, PML-N aims to win four of these six in the next general elections.
According to the Qureshi-Nawaz assessment of the division, the four major players in the area are Gilani, Qureshi himself, PML-N’s Javed Hashmi and PML-Q’s Sikandar Bosan.
In the 2008 general elections, Qureshi and Hashmi had contested for the same seat – NA-148. Hashmi, however, also contested from NA-149 and won that seat but lost NA-148 to Qureshi. But for the next general elections, which will be Hashmi’s last according to sources, Nawaz has assured Qureshi that Hashmi will contest only from NA-149, leaving Qureshi as the only major contender for NA-148.
The other two seats that the PML-N is aiming for are NA-150 and NA-151, where Gilani had contested in 2008. In NA-150, PML-N’s candidate Rana Mehmoodul Hasan had defeated Gilani’s son Abdul Qadir and will hence contest from the same seat in 2013. In NA-151, Gilani had won against PML-Q’s Sikandar Bosan. But Bosan will contest from the seat for the next elections and has already expressed his support for Qureshi. However, Bosan was not available for comment.
The deal also states that Qureshi and Nawaz will support Bosan and Rana or whoever contests the election against Gilani in 2013.
Rest of the Multan division
At the remaining two seats, PPP’s MNA Liaqat Ali Khan (NA-152) is likely to join Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf while PML-Q’s MNA Dewan Syed Ashiq Hussain (NA-153) supports Gilani.
Both Liaqat and PTI’s Punjab president Ahsan Rashid confirmed that they were negotiating.
In Khanewal, Qureshi and Nawaz will field their mutual candidates on three NA seats as, according to their information, the Hiraj family will join PTI.
In Lodhran district, according to PML-N’s think tank, Kanjo family will be awarded tickets for two NA seats.
According to sources, Qureshi and Nawaz have finalised their four candidates in Bahawalnagar district and will decide on who they will field in Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan districts.
Sources said that PPP’s former MNA Mian Mumtaz Matiana and former MPA Sufi Akram have already met Nawaz in Raiwind on November 19 and finalised their seats. Matiana, who is a close friend of Qureshi, will be awarded a ticket from NA-189 which is currently held by PPP MNA Mumtaz Alam Gilani.
PPP MNA from NA-190 Abdul Ghafoor Chaudhry, also close to Qureshi, has told Nawaz that his son, former senator Zafar Iqbal, will contest the 2013 elections in his place. But while sources said that Iqbal has already met Nawaz at the Punjab House to finalise his ticket, Iqbal himself said it was premature to comment on whether he had joined PML-N.
In NA-191, PPP MNA Muhammad Afzal Sindhu will be awarded a Senate ticket while Ejazul Haq an NA ticket. However, when contacted, Sindhu denied any such adjustment.
(Read: The Qureshi question)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2011.