GUJRAT: Erosion in the rank and file of the PPP in Punjab continues as former federal minister and party stalwart from central Punjab’s Mandi Bahauddin district, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, and his younger brother former PPP MNA retired Maj Zulfiqar Gondal formally joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) after meeting PTI Chairman Imran Khan in Nathiagali on Tuesday evening.

Mr Khan welcomed Nazar Gondal into the PTI fold, and claimed several leaders of the PML-N, too, wanted to join the PTI but were scared to do so for now.

Mr Gondal’s switch to the PTI is the third major blow to the PPP’s Gujranwala division, home of the party’s central Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira. In the last two weeks, party stalwarts Nawabzada Ghazanfar Ali Gul from Gujrat and Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan from Sialkot abandoned the PPP ship. While Mr Gul is yet to join another political party, Dr Awan announced her move to the PTI. Reports of Mr Gondal’s plans to join the PTI had been circulating for two weeks however, he had repeatedly denied the rumours.

The Gondal family enjoys considerable support in his constituency NA-109 (Malakwal, Gojra). According to some reports, Mr Gondal had opposed PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s soft stance towards the PML-N. However, a major reason could be the Rs45 billion corruption scandal in the Employees Old age Benefit Institution (EOBI) for which Mr Gondal’s brother Zafar Iqbal Gondal is being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau. It is said that Mr Gondal had expected Mr Zardari and the prime minister to reach a compromise on the issue and provide his brother some relaxation, but the hope never materialised.

During retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s military regime, Mr Gondal had refused a ministerial slot for his brother in 2002 as well as other handouts and stayed a PPP loyalist.

Dewan Shamim Akhtar, PPP’s Gujranwala division president, said his party had suitable substitute candidates in NA-109 and the provincial assembly constituencies falling under it. He insisted that it remained a PPP stronghold.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2017