Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, expected to officially announce his new party affiliation at his widely-anticipated rally in Ghotki today (Sunday), has decided to join Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), sources told The Express Tribune.
The former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart has also conveyed his decision to both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and PTI chief Imran Khan and has asked PTI to join his gathering in Ghotki. Qureshi’s close friend and member of PML-N Asghar Ali Rind informed Sharif of his final decision.
Another close ally of the former minister, a PPP member of the Punjab Assembly who requested anonymity, confirmed to The Express Tribune that Qureshi was indeed joining PTI.
Sources also said that Shah Mehmood Qureshi made his decision after two days of consultation with friends inside and outside the country, who “strongly recommended” it.
Former Sindh governor Mamnoon Hussain while talking to The Express Tribune corroborated that he had helped arrange the meeting between Qureshi and Sharif but added that only an official announcement would confirm Qureshi’s new affiliation and that he had no information on Qureshi conveying a decision to the PML-N chief.
In what appeared to be a dismissal of Qureshi by the PML-N, MNA Rana Mehmoodul Hassan told The Express Tribune that Qureshi is “following the directions of people in Aabpara in Islamabad”. He added that PML-N held negotiations over seat adjustment often and after contemplation, party leadership had taken a final decision in this regard.
Rahim Yar Khan to Ghotki: a (political) journey
Meanwhile, PTI office bearers from all over Punjab, including Lahore, have started their journey towards Ghotki. On the way, they will attend a rally in Rahim Yar Khan, located a short distance from Qureshi’s rally’s venue, where PTI chief Khan is to address a gathering. Former district nazim Rafique Haider Khan Leghari and other former MPAs and MNAs including Zafar Cheema are also to join PTI there.
“According to PTI’s schedule, Imran will address the Rahim Yar Khan gathering in the morning and move towards Ghotki where both him and Qureshi will deliver speeches on their future policy,” a top PTI official confirmed.
PTI sources also told The Express Tribune that negotiations between Qureshi and PTI had been finalised by PTI Senior Vice President Hamid Khan and ‘some influential people in Islamabad’.
PTI General Secretary Dr Arif Ali has confirmed that Khan will deliver his address after 4pm in Ghotki. Asked about any deal between Qureshi and PTI, he merely stated that Qureshi’s designation in the PTI could only be confirmed after he joined the party. He added that PTI Senior Vice President Ejaz Chaudhry is already in Ghotki involved in arrangements for the rally.
The former minister himself was not available for comment.
Qureshi in Multan
Meanwhile, the man who will answer the big question himself continued his anti-government tirade at an address in Multan, giving a preview of what is likely to be said at his rally. The former foreign minister said that the NRO verdict announced on Friday was the first step towards change which would unveil “all corrupt people sitting in positions of power”.
[WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OWAIS JAFRI IN MULTAN]
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2011.