Hailing from Deepalpur in Okara district, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo has to his credit over three decades of political experience. He was first elected chairman of the Okara district council in 1983 and became a member of the Punjab Assembly in 1985. He was also elected speaker of the assembly at the time.
In 1988, Wattoo was again elected as an MPA (independent) and soon joined the Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League (PML) which was the part of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). This time too, Wattoo became speaker of the house.
In 1993, he was elected as MNA and MPA from the IJI’s platform but opted to remain in Punjab, becoming speaker for the third time in a row.
After the 1993 election, Wattoo dislodged the provincial government of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz’s Ghulam Haider Wyne through a vote of no-confidence and became the chief minister with Pakistan Peoples Party’s support. At that time he had a group of only 17 or so dissenters on his side.
After a falling out with PPP in 1995, the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto installed Arif Nakai, another PML-Junejo man, as the new chief minister.
The same year, Wattoo formed PML-Jinnah after parting ways with his cousin, Hamid Nasir Chattha, who wanted to become president of PML-Junejo.
In 1996, Wattoo became MNA from the PML-Jinnah platform. He faced corruption references and was convicted in a case. Wattoo was in jail for a few months and was later moved to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology on health grounds. His hospital room was declared sub-jail and he stayed there for over two years.
After his acquittal, he joined Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) during the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. He was considered to be a close friend of the former president and had agreed to merge his PML-Jinnah into PML-Q on Musharraf’s advice.
He joined PPP just after getting elected as an independent candidate in the 2008 general election which he won from both NA-146 (Okara-IV) and NA-147 (Okara-V). Wattoo decided to retain the NA-146 seat and his son Khurram Jehangir was later elected on a PPP ticket in the by-election for NA-147.
Wattoo was made PPP's central Punjab president in October 2012. He also served as federal minister for Kashmir affairs during the 2008-2013 PPP-led coalition government.
Wattoo is known for being a master of the art of carving his way out to important positions in nearly every setup and his elevation to the PPP’s command in Punjab was shocking to many among the party’s provincial cadre.
— Research and text by Saher Baloch