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CHAKWAL: Already having grim chances of getting two tickets of his choice, Sardar Ghulam Abbas, the most influential politician of Chakwal, took Nawaz Sharif’s recent interview to Dawn as a chance to quit the PML-N.

At a press conference on Monday evening, Mr Abbas announced that he could not defend Nawaz Sharif during the election campaign due to his recent interview. “From today I have nothing to do with PML-N. We are leaving the party and from today our group is independent,” he added.

With his exit from the PML-N, the politics of Chakwal returned to its old course that was Sardar Group vs Anti-Sardar Group or PML-N.

Explaining his decision, Mr Abbas said he listened to the discussion of various analysts on TV channels and read Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s statement about the Mumbai attack trial in which the latter declared that the trial was stalled due to India’s non-cooperation. This led him to make up his mind to quit the party.

In the interview published in Dawn on May 12, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his concern over what he alleged isolation of Pakistan on global front and said: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”

His remarks stirred a political storm in the country and he is being labelled as a “traitor.”

Mr Abbas registered himself as the first politician to have left Mr Sharif.

“Many questions were raised regarding Mian Saheb’s interview. I found a paragraph very bizarre of which answer was supposed to be given by the government but the question was put before a journalist,” he maintained.

“I read those four lines repeatedly. I cannot satisfy the voters during election campaign on this issue,” he maintained.

When asked what different thing Mr Sharif had said than statements given by former national security adviser retired Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani and Rehman Malik, Mr Abbas said: “I failed to understand two things given in the interview. First, he mentioned the court (trial) which is the responsibility of the government of Pakistan. India has not cooperated in this case and I am saying this after listening to Chaudhry Nisar. The present government has been in office for about five years. Why couldn’t it fulfil its responsibility? The second thing is that phrase which begins from “should” (should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai?). This means that you are declaring Pakistan a culprit.”

On the other hand, since Mr Abbas joined the PML-N in September 2016, he faced severe opposition from MNA Tahir Iqbal, MNA Sardar Mumtaz Tamman and MPA Zulifqar Ali Dullah as these three lawmakers opposed Mr Abbas’ inclusion in the ruling party. Now Mr Abbas wanted to get two tickets: one for NA 64 and another for PP 23 while Tahir Iqbal and Zulifqar Ali Dullah are already candidates in these two constituencies.

A few days ago when Shahbaz Sharif visited the District Headquarters Hospital Chakwal, Mr Abbas was not present at the ceremony which was attended by all local MPs. Furthermore, when a few weeks ago Nawaz Sharif addressed political leaders of Rawalpindi Division in Islamabad, Mr Abbas was also not present there.

When hopes to get the tickets faded, Mr Abbas issued a video message to voters stating to contest the elections at any cost, be it as an independent.

Mr Abbas was first elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1985. He was elected MPA in 1993 under the banner of the PPP and made a minister. When Pervez Musharraf founded the PML-Q, Mr Abbas joined the party and was twice elected as the district nazim.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018