LAHORE, Feb 15: The PPP suffered a setback in Punjab, particularly in its southern region, when its nine MPAs joined the PML-N on Friday.
The MPAs, four of them from south Punjab, announced their decision to join the opposition party after a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
They included Nishat Ahmed Daha, Syed Jamil Shah, Rana Babar Hussain and Abbas Zafar Hiraj from Khanewal district, Rana Munawwar Hussain and Sardar Kamil Gujjar (Sargodha), Javed Alauddin (Okara), Qaiser Sindhu (Gujranwala) and Uzma Zahid Bukhari, an MPA elected on a seat reserved for women.
Her husband Samiullah Khan, a former PPP MPA from Lahore, is also among those who have joined the PML-N.
Welcoming the newcomers, Shahbaz Sharif informed them that PML-Q MNAs Dewan Ashiq Bukhari, from Multan, and Pir Aslam Bodla, from Khanewal, had also joined the PML-N.
Information Minister and PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira played down the defections, saying the party had been expecting that the MPAs would desert it.
He said the PML-N was not setting good traditions as it was relying on Lotas (turncoats) to rule Punjab.
Leader of opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar said the MPAs had quit what he called Zardari League and not the PPP.
Mehr Ishtiaq, a PML-N MPA, who was present in the meeting and had played a role in roping in some of the parliamentarians, told Dawn that the newcomers had joined the party unconditionally and no promise had been made to them.
Asked whether PML-N leaders aspiring for party ticket from the areas of the defectors would not resent the inclusions, he said the MPAs had been welcomed only after taking chapters concerned on board.
“The MPAs have assured the PML-N leadership that they will follow its directives.”
Earlier, Punjab PPP information secretary Dr Fakhruddin had announced that he had decided to quit the party a couple of months ago, but reversed the decision next day.
Asked if the PML-N had ensured that the Dr Fakhr episode would not be repeated, Mr Ishtiaq said: “We know that it’s the final round and there is no room for mistakes. Therefore we have made the defections public after being satisfied that the MPAs will not return to the PPP.”
Punjab PPP president Manzoor Wattoo belongs to Okara from where one of the defecting MPAs, Alauddin, also hails.
Mr Wattoo had been claiming that he had been mandated by President Asif Zardari to cause defections in the PML-N. But so far he has failed to even stop PPP members from changing their loyalties.