• Former ministers Hashim Dogar, Murad Raas working to form their own faction
• PPP leader says no ‘king’s party’ in the making, sees level playing field ahead of polls

LAHORE: As Jahangir Khan Tareen took former Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas on board, a senior PPP leader denied the impression that an emerging group of politicians led by Mr Tareen — who has been poaching PTI deserters ahead of general elections — will be the new “king’s party”.

Meanwhile, former PTI leaders Hashim Dogar and Murad Raas have been working to form their own faction as the party faces disintegration after the May 9 events.

However, the PPP leader, former governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood, stressed that all political players now had equal chances in the upcoming general elections.

“No king’s party is in the making. All political players have equal chances as the PPP will emerge stronger in south Punjab in the next polls,” Mr Mahmood told reporters in Lahore on Saturday.

He was speaking to the media after a meeting with PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari at Bilawal House, where the former president was busy wooing electable candidates, including those leaving the PTI amid a crackdown in the wake of May 9 violence.

Flanked by Abdul Qadir Shaheen and Khawaja Rizwan Alam, Mr Mahmood said the PPP’s position in Punjab was not that of 2018.

“We have gained much in Punjab, as many leaders in the province are joining it. The current political environment is favourable to PPP,” he said, claiming that even PTI supporters would vote for his party in the upcoming polls.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan recently claimed that a king’s party — a term generally used for new parties or political alliances set up under the patronage of military dictators — was being carved out of his party.

Mr Mahmood also predicted that the caretaker setup after the completion of the tenure of the incumbent federal government might prolong if it performed well economically. “If the caretaker government manages to take off the economy, it may stay in power for six months,” he claimed.

To a question about the possibility of PPP adjusting seats with its federal ally PML-N, he said a committee comprising members of both parties had already been formed in this regard.

JKT group huddle

Meanwhile, the Jahangir Tareen-led group held a meeting in Lahore on Saturday, in which PTI defector Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, former prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, participated and announced going along with Mr Tareen.

Earlier, during a meeting with PML-Q leadership, Mr Ilyas had not accepted Chaudhry Shujaat’s request to join his party and said he would announce his decision after consulting his friends.

“Our understanding with Jahangir Tareen is that we will move forward together. The work regarding forming a new party is also underway,” Mr Ilyas said.

Nauman Langrial, another member of the Tareen group, said the association was seriously considering forming a new party.

“Although no final decision has yet been made, we will likely form a new party. We are in contact with the former PTI leaders. Big names will join us soon,” he said.

He said that after the May 9 riots, things had changed and the people were not with “Imran Khan’s PTI”, adding that “we will welcome anyone who is ready to leave the PTI and its narrative”.

Hashim, Murad faction

On the other hand, former PTI leader Hashim Dogar claimed that over two dozen like-minded party deserters would meet to chalk out their future course of action. He, however, declared that these members would do politics against the PML-N and PPP.

Sources said Mr Dogar, along with another party deserter Murad Raas, were spearheading the move to bring like-minded politicians under one banner and planned to hold their first meeting to discuss the new political faction’s formation.

“Our objective is to create a separate group comprising former friends of PTI,” Mr Dogar, a former home minister, was quoted as saying in the media.

He said he would be able to unveil the final action plan and further details about the new political group after the meeting.

Meanwhile, Jahangir Tareen, who faces lifetime disqualification from public office, is keen to get a clean chit from the Supreme Court to lead the new political entity.

With more than 100 leaders and former lawmakers parting ways with the PTI since May 9, the Tareen group, PML-Q and PPP have stepped up efforts to poach as many deserters as possible to swell their ranks ahead of general elections.

Mansoor Malik also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023

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