Ahead of joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a good number of senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders from Punjab are seeking assurance that they would be awarded tickets along with their chosen candidates for provincial assembly seats from their constituencies.
According to sources, senior PPP Punjab leaders including Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Imtiaz Safdar Waraich, Major Zulfiqar Ali Gondal (Retd) and others are engaged in negotiating with senior PTI leadership.
Sources within PPP revealed that co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is also making hectic efforts to keep them within the party fold, fully cognizant of the disturbing fact that once these electables from Punjab leave the party its showing in Punjab would erode even further.
Another source within the PPP told Business Recorder that former president of PPP South Punjab Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Shaukat Basra from Southern Punjab and former PPP MNA from District Chakwal Palwasha Khan, are also in contact with PTI leadership. Approximately 25 important political figures of PPP from Southern and upper Punjab may join PTI soon after Eidul Fitr, sources further revealed. PPP insiders maintain that the party is likely to retain, if not increase its electoral strength in Sindh, with the two national parties notably PML-N and PTI not yet fully engaging in Sindh politics. This, they argue is because the MQM has split into three groups – MQM (Pakistan, MQM (London) and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and PML (functional) is in disarray.
The politics of Asif Ali Zardari revolve around electables and reconciliation. However former PPP electables in provinces other than Sindh are looking at PTI because they feel that there is no chance for the PPP to form the next government in the centre while the policy of reconciliation is applicable if in power in the centre. At present the former President is focused on maintaining the status quo, not winning the elections to form the next government in the centre but to emerge with the second largest number of seats in parliament and control of the Sindh assembly, sources further revealed.
To realize this Zardari is assuming that the PML-N will emerge as the largest party in the 2018 elections and that PPP would beat the PTI in the number of seats from Sindh alone. Sindh elects 61 seats of National Assembly and the PPP won 35 in 2013 elections – a conservative estimate would allow the PPP to win around 50 seats if the split MQM is unable to retain its strength in the assembly as is being projected.
This would require the PPP to get 10 to 15 seats from other provinces and this is the reason Zardari could be seen shuttling between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, sources added.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, noted political analyst, told Business Recorder that politics is a day to day affair and nothing can be predicted with certainty, but acknowledged that the PPP leadership is basing its ability to remerge as the main opposition party by maintaining its electoral strength in Sindh. He said that some electables from Punjab and Sindh have recently joined the PPP and its leadership claims to be in touch with at least a dozen more electables in both the provinces.
In Punjab, the real contest will be between candidates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), he said, adding that if the PPP fails to forge any alliance with other political parties in Punjab, then only a few of its electable candidates may win their seats. Rizvi said that the situation in Sindh favours PPP and it is likely to retain its position in the province, largely due to absence of any major opposition party in the interior Sindh. “In interior Sindh, people have no option but to vote for PPP,” he said, adding that PTI and PML-N are focused on Punjab only due to the number of seats in the province. A PTI spokesman said that a large number of politicians belonging to different political parties especially PML-N and PPP are in touch with the senior party leadership.
He said that party chairman Imran Khan had acknowledged that political heavyweights from PML-N and PPP want to join the party, and they would announce their joining at an appropriate time. To a question, he said that most of the politicians are waiting for the JIT findings and then it will be clear whether they are seriously considering joining PTI or not. He said Panama papers controversy has damaged the political career of Nawaz Nawaz Sharif to the point of no return