Sheikh Waqas Akram, MNA and federal minister with the PML-Q, defected to the PML-N on Thursday, raising the prospect of an election showdown with the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat in Jhang.
Akram, members of his family and around 30 former union council nazims called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday at his Model Town residence and announced that they were joining the PML-N.
The party lost won the Jhang city National Assembly seat, NA-89, five elections ago in 1988 when Begum Abida Hussain defeated Sipah-Sahaba founder Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. This time, Akram will likely face ASWJ chief Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, who was left fuming at the PML-N’s decision to take in the federal minister.
“I am not shocked, as politicians change their policies all the time, but Shahbaz Sharif and Sheikh Waqas have befooled the Jats for five years,” Ludhianvi said, reacting to the announcement. The Jats he was referring to are himself and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of the PML-Q.
“We [Ludhianvi and Elahi] are both straight shooters, but Akram was a minister, he fooled Pervaiz Elahi for five years. Shahbaz Sharif became chief minister and has befooled me for five years,” he said.
Ludhianvi said that a PML-N delegation consisting of Khawaja Ahmed Ehsan, Zafarullah Dhandla, Sanaullah Mastikhel and Hafeezullah Khan Niazi had approached him in 2008. On their request, he had withdrawn the AWSJ candidate at PP-48 Bhakkar, Maulana Abdul Hameed Khalid, so Sharif could be elected unopposed and go on to become chief minister.
He said that he had helped the PML-N candidates in by-elections at Jhang and Kharian, and there was cooperation in other areas too. “Akram may have influence in NA-89, but the ASWJ has voters across the country and we will review our policy towards the PML-N,” Ludhianvi said. He added that he planned to contest the election at NA-89 as an independent.
Addressing a press conference to announce Akram’s entry to the party, Shahbaz Sharif described him as a respected and educated politician. Akram had resigned as a minister and as a member of the National Assembly in order to join the PML-N. He said if the PML-N were elected to a power, a university would be built in Jhang.
Akram said he had joined the PML-N without condition, though after “some reservations and misunderstandings due to a communication gap” had been removed. He said that he and his family had always been Muslim Leaguers, ideologically, and were pleased to have joined the PML-N.
Profile of NA 89
NA-89 has long been an ASWJ hub. In 1988, when it was known as Sipah-i-Sahaba, its founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi won 39,000 votes at NA-89, but lost out to Begum Abida Hussain. However, he vowed that Abida Hussain would quit the constituency. In 1990, Hussain contested the election from elsewhere, though Jhangvi had been killed by then.
Maulana Isarul Qasmi won the NA-89 seat as well as the PP-77 Punjab Assembly seat in 1990, defeating the PML-N’s Sheikh Yusuf. Qasmi too was killed, but the party remained in control of the constituency. Sipah-i-Sahaba’s Azam Tariq won both seats by a wide margin in 1993, the loser again being Yusuf.
The PPP’s Nawab Amanullah Khan Sial won the seat in 1997, while Azam Tariq again won it in 2002. After Tariq was assassinated, Sheikh Waqas Akram won the seat in a by-election as a candidate of the PML-Q and retained it in the 2008 elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2013.