LAHORE: With more focus on the south Punjab for next general elections, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has ‘established contacts’ with ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s ‘disgruntled’ members especially belonging to the Jehangir Khan Tareen group and other ‘electables’ as part of its strategy [for the polls].
The PPP thinks that over 30 lawmakers of the Tareen group from the south will have no other political choice ahead of next polls but the party of Bhuttos. “(Prime Minister) Imran Khan will not give party tickets to these ‘rebel’ members and the PML-N under ‘anti-establishment’ Nawaz Sharif will not be an option for them. So PPP seems to be the only choice for them,” a PPP leader told Dawn on Tuesday.
“PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s recent one week-visit to south Punjab was aimed at motivating the party workers and re-aligning the electables,” he said.
Party focuses on south as PML-N, PTI are dominant in central Punjab
Bilawal during his rallies in different cities of the south targeted the leadership of both the PTI and PML-N asking the party workers to get ready for the elections that might take place ‘any time.’
“If the party has to come to power in the Centre it will have to grab a maximum number of seats from the south which has some 50 seats of the National Assembly…and knowing this Mr Bilawal’s main focus is on the Seraiki belt,” he said.
At least over half-a-dozen former lawmakers and chairmen announced joining the party of Bhuttos during Bilawal’s tour of the south. They include former federal minister Sardar Bahadur Khan Sehar from Layyah, former MPAs Chaudhry Ashfaq Ahmed, Chaudhry Ashraf and Asad Abbas and Jamil Shah.
Veteran politician from DG Khan Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa and his son Dost Muhammad Khosa also hosted Bialwal and PPP senior leader from south Haider Zaman Qureshi claimed while talking to Dawn that the Khosa family was now part of the PPP.
“Mr Bilawal will make another tour of the south in a couple of months in which a good number of politicians from PML-N and PTI will join the PPP. Besides, the electables belonging to the Jehangir Tareen and Khusro Bakhtiar group (in the south) are weighing their options carefully in the current political situation and the PPP may be the ‘ultimate choice’ for such groups and electables ahead of the next elections as they are seeing the public pulse there,” Mr Qureshi said and added that Mr Bilawal’s rally received a ‘warm welcome’ from the charged crowed from Multan to Vehrai travel at several points.
Qureshi was of the view that the PML-N leaders in the south were [somewhat] nonplussed because of the ‘confusion’ created by its two narratives (of retaliation and reconciliation pitched by Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif, respectively).
“The PTI candidates are facing the wrath of the people because of their government’s bad governance leading to unprecedented price hike, inflation and unemployment, etc,” Mr Qureshi said and added the south was PPP’s main focus but it did not mean it was ignoring other parts of the province.
“Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been brought in the central Punjab to reorganise the party for a better delivery,” he said.
PPP’s chief coordinator south Punjab Abdul Qadir Shaheen told this reporter that more than 10 electables from the south would announce joining the PPP during the next visit of Mr Bilawal there in November. “Most of the electables will be sitting lawmakers of the ruling party,” Mr Shaheen said and added that the party chairman had told the workers to be ready for general elections that could be held ‘any time next year.’
In the central Punjab the PPP has apparently been wiped out and Mr Bilawal and his father Asif Ali Zardari seem to have been well aware of it.
“The party chairman is not wasting his energies on the central Punjab knowing that it will be a waste of time; therefore the south is the main hope for PPP. Despite efforts PPP cannot put up a better show in central Punjab where two parties – PML-N and PTI – are dominant,” another leader commented.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021