In recent weeks the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has been criticised for taking politicians who had either worked under or remained associated with former president (retired) General Pervez Musharraf.
Given its tough stance against accepting ‘turncoats’ in its ranks, for some observers the measure is the result of sheer frustration, while for others it is real politics driven by hard to ignore ground realities.
The latest entrant is Chaudhry Ahmad Saeed from Gujrat, who joined the party on September 24.
Even briefly skimming his resume is enough to raise eye-brows: Mr Saeed worked closely with Musharraf as chairman of the Pakistan International Airline (PIA), and is the older brother of a PPP stalwart and sitting minister, Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar.
Needless to say, with Mr Saeed joining the ranks of the PML-N, the party gets a strong candidate to pitch against the other Chaudhrys of Gujrat, and this will definitely have a major impact on district level politics.
The other day, on a television talk show, when Mian Nawaz Sharif was confronted over the softening stance of the PML-N on its ‘no turncoats in the party’ policy, his reply was unconvincing: “I have accepted them on the condition that in the future they will not support any military dictator.”
Meanwhile, insiders opine that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) factor has forced the PML-N leadership to change its earlier tough stance against the Musharraf-era politicians.
A senior PML-N leader predicted more entries in the party from other sides in coming days.
He added that the PML-N was presently sitting in the opposition, and thus, couldn’t take the risk of pitting untried politicians against the established lot, whereas, the ruling coalition was using every possible mean to help their side in the next general elections.
“When every other party has opened its doors for politicians regardless of their devious political records, then why not us,” the opposition party leader argued.
Hence, just a few days prior to Mr Saeed joining the party, PML-N saw Riaz Hussain Pirzada, a sitting lawmaker of the PML-Q from Bahawalpur and a veteran politician, formally joining, after a meeting with Mr Sharif.
A couple of MPAs who happened to be Mr Riaz’s nephews had already announced their allegiance towards the PML-N.
With Mr Riaz taking side with Sharifs, the party will have a bankable candidate in Bahawalpur, who will help them to advance party’s interests in southern Punjab. There are also reports of the PML-N wooing former Speaker National Assembly, Syed Fakhar Imam who hails from Khanewal and his politician wife, Syeda Abida Hussain from Jhang.
Both husband and wife have been part of the PML-N formerly, and if they join it for next elections then the party has a good shot at taking over the two constituencies which are currently with PML-Q lawmakers.
However, only time will tell if the PML-N can make any major breakthroughs in the electoral politics of Sindh.
With all its pro-active and at times desperate measures to break into Sindhi politics – in April this year when the PPP leadership developed serious differences with Sardar Uzair Baloch, leader of Peoples Aman Committee from Lyari, the party wasted no time in inviting him – the party has been able to attract a reasonable number of politicians towards its side.
Former chief minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi is seeing the operations of the party in Sindh, and in the last week of July, managed to take in former education minister and historian Dr Hamida Khuhro, along with her brother Masood Khuhro, who is also a former MPA.
Another former Sindh chief minister Arbab Rahim, who was part of the PML-Q, has also joined hands with the PML-N.
Similarly, the PML-N is looking for electoral alliances with Sindh-based political parties and has been successful.
The Sindh United Party (SUP) headed by Jalal Mehmood Shah has pledged its allegiance, while talks are under way with PML-F led by Pir Pagaro Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi.
The leaders of the two parties met in August this year, but a final decision is pending.
The PML-F has five MNAs and 11 MPAs—8 in Sindh Assembly and 3 in Punjab Assembly— which would bolster party rankings for the PML-N if the alliance comes through.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Engineer Amir Muqam, a sitting PML-Q lawmaker, who has joined the PML-N, is leading a similarly aggressive campaign.
In fact, Mr Muqam’s activity has irked old guards of the party in the province such as Sabir Shah and Mehtab Abbasi who have complained to Mr Sharif for his solo tactics.