Today's Paper | June 15, 2024

Published 08 Jun, 2023 07:35am

Ex-PTI loyalists flock to new boss, JKT

• Aleem Kham keen to become president of ‘Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party’; Fawad, Zaidi, ex-governor Imran, Kiyani, Firdous, Maulvi, Chohan attend reception
• Zardari camped in Lahore to woo defectors

LAHORE: Jahangir Khan Tareen, who is reportedly on a mission to gather PTI deserters on one platform, made a notable progress on Wednesday when several key players of Imran Khan’s team joined hands with the sugar baron.

At a huddle in Lahore, former PTI stalwarts Fawad Chaudhry, Amir Kiyani, Ali Zaidi, Imran Ismail, Mahmood Maulvi, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Ajmal Wazir, Nauraiz Shakoor and Fayyazul Hasan Chohan embraced their ‘new boss’ with smile on their faces.

Interestingly, some of them had announced a ‘temporary break’ from politics while quitting the PTI in the wake of May 9 incidents. However, their break lasted only a couple of weeks before they formally entered the new political camp.

Former Punjab minister Murad Raas, who had formed the ‘Democrats’ group in league with another ex-minister Hashim Dogar a few days ago claiming support of nearly three dozen ex-lawmakers, also decided to side with Mr Tareen on the promise of getting a good position in the new party the latter is going to launch shortly.

Awn Chaudhry, a member of the JKT camp, said the name of the new party would be ‘Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP)’. A source told Dawn that there was consensus among the group members over the name, but a last-minute change could not be ruled out.

Property tycoon Aleem Khan has reportedly set his sights on the president’s slot in the IPP while Mr Tareen may be called ‘Quaid’ of the new party till he gets relief from the court regarding his life-time disqualification from holding a public office.

The new party, which is being tagged as the ‘king’s party’, is expected to play an important role in Punjab politics in the next general elections. Most of PTI deserters and electables belonging to south Punjab have already joined the JKT group.

On Wednesday, three former PTI leaders from south — Sajjad Bokhari, Tasneem Gardezi and Jahanzeb Warren — announced joining the JKT group.

Former adviser to CM Ali Gilani, ex-lawmakers Mumtaz Mahrvi, Azmat Chishti and Mehr Irshad Kathia, and former PTI leaders retired Maj Khurram Rokhari and Usman Ashraf also met Mr Tareen and joined his group.

There has been a tough competition between the JKT group and PPP to woo as many electables and PTI deserters from the south as possible to propel their chances from the region in next elections.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari has been camping in Lahore for a week to strengthen the PPP position in the face of a ‘fractured’ PTI.

“Mr Zardari believes that if his son Bilawal has any chance to become the next premier then PPP will have to bag a good number of seats in Punjab, especially the southern region of the province where it has a vote bank,” a PPP leader from Punjab told Dawn.

The PML-Q of Chaudhry Shujaat Husain has yet to net any prominent political figure.

Over 100 PTI stalwarts and legislators, who quit the party following the events of May 9, are now looking for new pastures to give a boost to their political career. The exodus from PTI continues as more and more ‘loyalists of Imran Khan’ are bidding adieu to him with each passing day to make themselves relevant in politics.

Last week, Mr Raas, the self-appointed head of ‘Democrats’, made a tall claim that he and Mr Dogar had formed the ‘Democrats’ group comprising 35 former lawmakers. Both leaders would not provide details of the lawmakers who they claimed were with them.

However, their claim caught significant media attention until Mr Raas, who is a relative of PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz, met Mr Tareen on Wednesday and joined hands with him.

Mr Raas did not respond to Dawn’s queries. However, it is learnt that he has either been promised a good position in the new party or ‘directed’ to join Mr Tareen.

It is said that over 100 former PTI lawmakers and leaders attended the reception at the residence of Aleem Khan on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023

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