ISLAMABAD: Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, who quit the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Saturday after being ignored by the leadership, has a number of grievances behind his decision.
The 64-year-old politician from south Punjab, who gained a reputation of a brave politician because of his steadfast opposition to military rule, had been nursing these grievances for many years, sources close to him told Dawn.
Ironically, the sources claimed, the reputation of being a bold man acted against him as the PML-N leadership baulked at his nomination for Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, fearing that it might not be helpful in rebuilding its relations with the military establishment.
A PML-N office-bearer told Dawn that Mr Hashmi was not appointed as opposition leader since he was a “compulsive agitator” and not suitable for the job.
He conceded that Mr Hashmi led the party with courage during the Musharraf era, but added that he was not considered suitable for leadership during normal times as this requires a problem solver, and not an agitator.
A PML-N source claimed that friction between Mr Hashmi and the Sharifs had actually started when Mr Hashmi ignored Nawaz Sharif’s advice to retain his National Assembly seat from Rawalpindi after the Feb 2008 elections, and instead decided to retain the seat he had won in his native Multan.
The source said Mr Sharif had given a free hand to Mr Hashmi by allowing him to contest elections from as many constituencies as he wanted.
However, the source added, Mr Sharif asked Mr Hashmi to contest the National Assembly seat from Rawalpindi (NA-55), where an old party man Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of the PML-Q was undefeated since 1988.
Mr Hashmi contested for four seats and won three of them – one each from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan.
He lost to Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who had contested the election on the PPP ticket on another seat from Multan.
Later, when the party nominated Mr Hashmi for a ministerial portfolio in the coalition government with the PPP, Mr Hashmi refused to be administered oath by then President Pervez Musharraf, during whose rule he had spent most of the time in jail on charges of treason.
When the PML-N came out of the ruling coalition on the judges’ issue and became the largest opposition parliamentary group, the party leadership ignored his services and appointed Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as the opposition leader in National Assembly.
Then came the presidential election after the resignation of Gen Musharraf in Aug 2008. Mr Hashmi suggested to the leadership that the party should take measures to stop PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari from becoming president.
PRESIDENTIAL POLL: Mr Hashmi now openly says that his party had ignored his advice on ways to pre-empt the entry of Mr Zardari to the Presidency at all costs, but no one listened to him.
Although he does not elaborate on his advice, it is believed that Mr Hashmi had suggested fielding a joint candidate of the PML-N and the PML-Q against Mr Zardari.
Mushahid Hussain, of the PML_Q, had openly offered his party’s support to PML-N in case of Hashmi’s nomination. Political analysts at that time were of the opinion that Mr Hashmi had the potential to win the elections due to his good reputation and sacrifices for democracy.
However, Mr Sharif was firm on no cooperation with PML-Q and nominated Justice (retd) Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui, only to lose the election.
Mr Hashmi, who kept the party alive during the trying times after dismissal of the Nawaz-led government and at a time when both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif had left the country, was later ignored by the leadership on a number of occasions.
He was not invited to many meetings in which the party leadership took major decisions on national issues as well as the party’s organisational matters, the sources said.
Earlier, Mr Hashmi and PML-N MNA from Lahore, Khwaja Saad Rafiq, had escaped show-cause notices from the leadership for violating discipline at the time of passage of the 18th Constitution Amendment when they voted against a clause that called for doing away with the law binding political parties to hold elections.
Similarly, Mr Hashmi was also unhappy with the leadership for having no clear stance on the issue of creation of new provinces.
In his speech on the floor of the National Assembly on Aug 3, he surprised political observers when he asked the leadership of his own party to announce division of Punjab into four provinces.
He also rebutted the reported statement of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in which he had described the demand for creation of new provinces a “gimmick” by the PPP government to hide its alleged corruption.
“I have great respect for Shahbaz Sharif, but I do not agree with his statement in which he had linked the demand for new provinces to the government’s corruption,” said Mr Hashmi.
Javed Hashmi, who reluctantly accepted the office of the senior vice-president of the party in July, was a member of the 15-member special committee constituted by Nawaz Sharif to formulate suggestions on the rising demand for new provinces in the country.
Earlier in April, Mr Hashmi had proposed splitting up the country’s four provinces for ensuring good administration.
Mr Hashmi’s call for the creation of more provinces, especially in Punjab, caused unease in PML-N ranks.
Recently, Mr Hashmi felt more isolated when he was not consulted by the leadership while devising a strategy to defeat Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Multan in the upcoming by-election. Mr Hashmi, the sources said, wanted his party to award the ticket to his son-in-law, but the party rejected his request.
Moreover, the sources said, Mr Hashmi was dejected when he came to know that his party was negotiating with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who wanted to field his son for the seat that had fallen vacant after Mr Qureshi’s resignation.
Mr Hashmi says that he attended the PML-N’s recent public meetings without invitation. His party did not invite him even at the last week public meeting at Chishtian, which was addressed by Nawaz Sharif.
On the other hand, PML-N’s deputy secretary general Ahsan Iqbal denied that Mr Hashmi had been sidelined by the leadership. “He was the most respected man in the party and attended all important meetings.”
Mr Iqbal, who was a member of the team that negotiated with Mr Hashmi for more than three hours in Lahore on Friday in an attempt to stop him from leaving the PML-N, said even though Mr Hashmi had a number of times issued statements that were contrary to the party’s policy, the leadership did not take any action against him.
So much so, he added, the party did not even ask Mr Hashmi as to why he had gone against the party line during voting on the 18th amendment bill.