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Influential figures likely to join PTI

December 19, 2011

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PTI chief Imran Khan during a rally. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan’s campaign will gather more steam when a group of about 30 politicians, including some sitting legislators and former federal ministers, will quit their parties on Monday to join his Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, Dawn has learnt.

The members of the group, led by MNA from Rahimyar Khan Jahangir Tareen, will announce their decision to join the PTI at a news conference with Imran Khan at Islamabad’s National Press Club, confirmed PTI’s newly-appointed information secretary Shafqat Mehmood, who is in the city to oversee arrangements for the event.

In reply to a question, Mr Mehmood said the list of those joining the party was with Mr Tareen and that only he could disclose the names of his group members.

A group member Ishaq Khan Khakwani proudly provided names of some prominent figures joining the PTI with him on Monday.

According to him, MNA Awais Leghari and Senator Jamal Leghari, the two sons of former president Sardar Farooq Ahmed Leghari, are the most prominent among those joining the party, besides Senator Mir Mohabbat Khan Marri from Balochistan.

Although the group joining the PTI comprises members from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and tribal areas, a majority of them belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and hails from southern Punjab.

Political analysts believe that the PTI, which has already acquired a significant strength in south Punjab after last month’s joining of former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, will definitely become a strong force in the region after joining of the new batch, comprising a number those who had been participating and winning their seats in almost all the previous elections.

The other prominent figures joining the PTI on Monday are former minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan from Taxila, former defence minister Col (retd) Ghulam Sarwar Cheema, former minister Dr G.G. Jamal, Sikandar Bosan, former MNA Azhar Khan Yousufzai, Umar Khan Miankhel and Dr Javed Hussain.

Sources told Dawn that the group, mostly comprises PML-Q dissidents, had been negotiating terms for joining the PTI or having an electoral alliance with it for the past nine months. However, the group took a final decision during a meeting with Imran Khan in Islamabad on Friday, they added.

Mr Khakwani, who was the minister of state for railways in the Musharraf regime, said the group was joining the PTI “for the sake of Pakistan” as Imran Khan was vying to bring a credible change in the country.

He said the group took considerable time to take a final decision as earlier some of its members were opposed to the idea and only wanted to have an electoral alliance with the PTI.

After lengthy deliberations and brainstorming, he said, the group came to the conclusion that it should not form a separate party when it had another platform in the shape of the PTI which was pursuing the same agenda.

“When we saw another platform doing the same thing we wanted, we decided to join it instead of creating two fragmented groups,” he said, adding: “if people having divergent views and ideologies can join hands and form the government just to share the power and loot the country then why those having the same programme of saving Pakistan cannot join hands?”

Mr Khakwani said the group had actually come into existence when PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain decided to join hands with the Pakistan People’s Party.

The sources said some members of the group, including Awais Leghari, were of the view that they should form their own party and only talk with Imran Khan to have an electoral alliance.

When asked about Mr Leghari’s reluctance to join the PTI, Mr Khakwani said difference of opinion was part and parcel of democracy. He said some members wanted to only have cooperation with Imran Khan, but finally they agreed and decided to go with the viewpoint of the majority of the members.

When asked about the terms and conditions agreed with Mr Khan, Mr Khakwani said they were not joining the PTI for “power politics” and to form the government, but only to bring the country out of present chaotic situation due to poor economic policies of the rulers.

When asked about the strategy to deal with the anti-defection clause which would be applicable on the sitting legislators after their joining the PTI, he said, they had thoroughly deliberated upon the matter and it would be announced soon.

He neither confirmed nor denied if the sitting legislators would announce resigning from the National Assembly and Senate like Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the time of the joining the PTI.

PTI information secretary Shafqat Mehmood denied that the party had struck any deal with Mr Tareen-led group. “All of them are joining us unconditionally,” he claimed.

Mr Mehmood said it was a stated policy of the PTI that it would accept people into its fold without any conditions. “As far as the tickets for the elections are concerned, the parliamentary board of the party will decide it on merit without considering the background and stature of any person,” he said.

Former minister and now a PML-F legislator Jahangir Tareen had announced in July to form a new political party of “clean politicians” to provide an alternative to the PPP and PML-N in the next elections.

He had even announced at that time that the new party could forge an alliance with the PTI due to similarities in their objectives.

PTI chief Imran Khan, who had surprised political stalwarts with his impressive rally in Lahore, had already shown his willingness to accept people from other political parties and some of them, including former ministers, had already joined him.

Besides the PML-Q dissidents, the sources in the PTI said, a number of dissidents from the PPP and the PML-N were also in contact with Imran Khan and negotiating terms for formally joining the PTI.