LAHORE: The Pakistan Peoples Party made a major political gain in Punjab on Wednesday when at least 24 former legislators and ticket holders, mostly from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), joined the party after meeting former president Asif Ali Zardari here on Wednesday.

Most of them belong to south Punjab — 10 from Muzaffargarh district alone — while others were from Okara, Bahawalpur, Mianwali, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan districts.

Mr Zardari welcomed the new entrants by draping them in the tri-colour PPP standard. Former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, ex-governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood and Syed Hassan Murtaza were also present.

Muzaffargarh has been a citadel of the PPP as the party has been winning two to three National Assembly seats from the district, even during the worst of times.

Most are former PTI members, hail from south Punjab; Gilani claims people from every political party clamouring to join

One of the new entrants told Dawn that they had first tried to seek space in the PML-N, which declined to accommodate them because it did not want to ditch those leaders who remained steadfast despite pressure from the establishment while the PTI was in power.

Requesting not to be named, he said they joined the PPP because it has a vote bank of 8,000 to 10,000 in each constituency and it seems the establishment is also favouring the party.

A PPP leader from south Punjab told Dawn that those who joined the party may not be stronger candidates in the next elections, but at least the party managed to win over ‘reasonable’ people for showing a better performance this time.

The PPP could win only six NA seats from Punjab in the 2018 general election.

The PPP leader said many political figures from Multan would also join the party shortly as ex-premier Gilani would take a decision on their future after discussions with the senior party leadership.

Those who joined the PPP on Wednesday are: former MNA Qutb Fareed Koreja, ex-MPA Rasool Bakhsh Jatoi, and PTI ticket holders Rais Akmal Waran, Shamsher Mazari, Syed Qasim Ali Shamsi, Fareeha Batul, Abdul Aziz Kalank, Pir Jafar Muzammal Shah, Allah Wasaya Chinu Laghari, Alamdar Abbas Qureshi, Malik Abdul Ghaffar Arain, Atta Qureshi, Yasir Atta Qureshi, Syed Jameel Shah, Syed Rashid Shah, Sheikh Dilshad Ahmed, Syed Bilal Mustafa, Syed Tahsin Nawaz Gardezi, Ali Haider Wattoo, Salman Ayub Mohal, Amir Haider Wattoo, Ayaz Khan, Amjad Khan Niazi and Muzazmal Khan Niazi.

Mr Gilani told journalists at Bilawal House that their consultative meetings were going on about the future political strategy of the party in Punjab and whom to accept into the party fold and whom not.

He said people belonging to every political party were coming to join the PPP and their cases were being decided after internal discussions in the party. “Political background of each candidate will be taken into consideration before taking a decision on accepting him/her into party fold.”

Responding to a question, the former PM said the PPP believed in dialogue and urged its ruling allies to initiate talks with the PTI. The talks did make progress until the PTI took a U-turn and insisted on holding elections in Punjab on May 14 against its earlier agreement of delaying the electoral exercise to October, when polls to all the elected houses would be due, he added.

“We cautioned them that they had committed a mistake by dissolving the [Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] assemblies and were doing a blunder by backing out of the dialogue process.”

Answering a question about May 9 attacks, Mr Gilani said the whole world and even the PTI had condemned the incidents and now the law would take its course against the accused as attacking military installations is tantamount to attacking the state itself. There should be no military wings in political parties, he added.

He told a questioner that political stability ensures economic stability and that’s why they are stressing on holding talks among all the political stakeholders.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2023

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