GUJRAT: The last-week joining of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf by a Pakistan People’s Party leader from Mandi Bahauddin has sent alarm bells ringing in the PPP circles here who apprehend more such desertions ahead of next elections.
A former federal parliamentary secretary, Tariq Tarrar of Raika, Mandi Bahauddin, joined the PTI after a meeting with Imran Khan in Islamabad.
Citing Mr Tarrar’s case, PPP leaders and workers in Mandi and Gujrat say the ‘electables’ consider PPP’s future bleak in Punjab in the wake of rising popularity of the PTI. According to them, such people may prove wrong as the PPP can still make a comeback in case party chairman Bilawal Bhutto initiates a mass contact campaign.
Sources say PTI’s Senior Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi played an active role in luring his kin, Tariq Tarrar, to the party. They claim that Mr Qureshi is also pursuing another strong political family of the PPP from Mandi Bahauddin district to join the PTI since one of the senior members of that family has been the colleague of Mr Qureshi in former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet.
Once the district president of the PPP in Mandi Bahauddin, Tariq Tarrar was elected an MPA in 1993 general elections and then MNA in 2008 elections on the PPP tickets.
The Mandi Bahauddin district was considered a strong bastion of the PPP in the central Punjab as the party had clinched both the National Assembly and all the five Punjab Assembly seats in 1993 as well as in 2008. It was also the only district in the central Punjab where a PPP stalwart, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, was elected district nazim in 2001 local body elections.
A source told Dawn the family of former PPP minister Nazar Muhammad Gondal and Nadeem Afzal Chan, former chairman of the public accounts committee of the National Assembly, were seriously weighing the option of joining the PTI in near future. He said Shah Mahmood Qureshi was working on them as well.
Four people of the well known Gondal family from Mandi Bahauddin had made it to the NA and PA in 2008 elections as Nazar Gondal and his younger brother, Zulfi qar Gondal, were elected MNA and MPA and their nephews Nadeem Afzal Chan and Waseem Afzal Chan were elected MNA and MPA on PPP tickets.
Nadeem Afzal Chan was elected from Bhalwal tehsil of Sargodha district and rest of them were elected from their home Mandi Bahauddin district.
It is learnt that some senior leaders in the PPP have also discussed these reports with Nazar Gondal and Nadeem Chan but they rejected such a possibility.
A senior party leader told Dawn a strong group in the PPP comprising some former legislators of Punjab was annoyed over party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s policy of unconditionally supporting the Nawaz government.
He said the group wanted the PPP to put up a stiff opposition to the PML-N government as the latter had done with the PPP in its last era.
He said the party leadership was also keeping an eye on the connections of that group with the PTI leadership as another former minister of PPP from Gujrat district had been questioned around a month ago by Faryal Talpur of his closeness with PTI leader Imran Khan.
However, the man in question clarifi ed his position and later on he had also expressed resentment over his close circles for being suspected.
Another PPP stalwart said previously when Zardari had decided to forge a coalition with the PML-Q to strengthen the PPP government, at least four federal ministers of the PPP from Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin districts had expressed their serious reservations over the decision and now almost the same group was showing resentment on the party cooperation with the PML-N.
He said such reports of possible desertions of PPP stalwarts to the PTI had actually compelled party chairman Bilawal Bhutto to issue an apologetic statement requesting the workers not to leave the party.
Dewan Shamim Akhtar, the district president of PPP in Mandi Bahauddin, said there was no solid reason for Tariq’s leaving the party since he had been given huge uplift funds for his constituency besides being elevated as the federal parliamentary secretary.
He said party leader Yousaf Raza Gilani had also visited Tarrar’s Phalia residence as the prime minister of Pakistan.
However, he said such desertions had never made any dent to the party since the party had too many options as substitute of Mr Tarrar in NA-108.
When asked about the reports of possible desertion of the Gondal family, he said he like the other party workers of the district had also heard such reports.
But he said he did not believe such reports since the Gondal family had remained committed to the PPP even in the dictatorial rule of Pervez Musharraf despite the fact that then Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Elahi had been very harsh to the Gondal family.
He said the activation of Bilawal Bhutto was a positive sign for the party future and Punjab workers were anxiously waiting for the scion of their brave leader Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.
Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2014