LAHORE: The Punjab governor-designate will take oath at 11:30 am on Tuesday, December 25 at the Governor’s House.
President Zardari moved the summary of his notification on Saturday afternoon. The summary would be routed through the secretary establishment to the Punjab chief secretary. The latter would then send it to the Punjab CM and the chief justice of the Lahore High Court for further procedure so as to facilitate the oath-taking ceremony on Monday.
Amid reports of emerging differences between Pir Pagara and Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood, it was learnt the Pir Saheb Pagara not only supported the Makhdoom’s candidature during his meeting at the Kingri House last Thursday night (December 20), but also congratulated him on his return from the Bilawal House after meeting President Zardari. The Makhdoom of Jamaldinwali enjoyed complete confidence of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional chief in entertaining the Pakistan People’s Party offer of assuming the charge of Punjab governor’s office. Apart from this, sources said the Pir Saheb Pagara agreed to replace him with his son, Murtaza Mehmood as the PML-F’s Punjab president soon after Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood took oath as the governor. However, Pir Pagara later took a different stance, perhaps keeping in view the political backlash for allowing a senior party leader and a family member to sit in the PPP’s lap with the government annoying the PML-F’s nationalists’ allies, being led by Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi himself, who were at loggerheads with the government over the local government act.
The Makhdoom had to relinquish his party’s political office of the Punjab president in view of the constitutional requirements attached to his new assignment. As he quit as the PML-F Punjab president, his party membership stood automatically cancelled. The decision to this effect, that is, of accepting the governorship and relinquishing the party office, was taken with the consent of the Pir Pagara at his Karachi residence (Kingri House) in the presence of the Pir himself late on Thursday night.
It is important to note that Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood had gone to Karachi to meet Pir Pagara to have an already scheduled meeting for discussing in person the offer he had been declining since Dec 4, while he was in London. The PPP top brass had been in contact with the Makhdoom for the last few months. However, the liaison revved up early this month with people in important places in the government gearing up their efforts for bringing in a clean and non-controversial politician in Punjab before the elections so as to give credence to the caretaker setup.
The PPP influential thought that Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood could have been the best choice for the slot at this juncture for making the democracy-to-democracy transition more transparent. With the stepping in of former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Ahmad Mehmood’s cousin, on the latter’s return to Pakistan on Dec 14, the bid to convince the ever-hesitant Makhdoom was revived, forcing him to talk to the party top man. Yusuf Raza Gilani, along with his son Musa Gilani, met the Makhdoom at his Lahore residence.
Interestingly, the Makhdoom was still not ready to accept the offer despite the former PM’s request stressing how important his decision was vis-a-vis its positive impact on the country’s politics at the very crucial political phase the country was going through.
The ex-PM, while trying to convince the Makhdoom, said the PPP attached no condition whatsoever in the bargain. “You would not have to join the PPP or compromise your party’s political interests. We just want a sober person like you in the office, who has great political credentials across all sides of the political divide. It will be great to have you in the Governor’s House, overseeing the smooth process of moving towards elections,’’ stressed the former PM. Yusuf Gilani told the Makhdoom he was acceptable to all political forces, and that he could ensure peaceful elections in the province. “All you have to sacrifice is your own election from Jamaldinwali,’’ the former PM added.
On Dec 20, Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood met Pir Pagara at his residence in Karachi at 6pm. Before his departure, as the PPP mediators knew about Makhdoom’s scheduled meeting with Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi, Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood got a call from President Zardari. The president wished the Makhdoom joined him over a dinner at Bilawal House as he was also in Karachi. The Makhdoom accepted the invitation.
During the meeting at Kingri House with Pir Saheb Pagara, Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood narrated the whole episode in detail and sought his advice. He also informed the party chief that plausible purpose of the dinner with the president on the same night. Interestingly, Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi got overwhelmed, and spelt out clearly he would not have any bitterness if Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood accepted the offer. It was learnt that Pir Pagara suggested the Makhdoom should not give it a second thought. “You must accept it. Come back to me after the dinner, and tell me what happened,” a source present in the meeting revealed, quoting Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi. The matter regarding the Makhdoom’s replacement for the office of the PML-F Punjab president was decided there and then, sources added.
Taking a green signal from the party chief, the Makhdoom headed for the Bilawal House. He had a detailed meeting with President Zardari there, who was accompanied by Bilawal Bhutto and Bakhtawar Bhutto. Former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani and his son, Musa Gilani, were also present on the occasion. President Zardari, while convincing the Makhdoom, said if the PPP was ready to sacrifice its governorship for the country’s sake, he expected the Makhdoom to sacrifice his election for the same reason.
After having negotiations with President Zardari in a very friendly atmosphere, the Makhdoom returned to Kingri House immediately. When the Pir Saheb was debriefed on the discussion at the Bilawal House, he congratulated the Makhdoom, saying he was pleased. Sources said the Makhdoom tendered his resignation from the party office on a plain piece of paper with the understanding that his son would replace him.
Interestingly, the party sources say, there has not been any contact between Pir Saheb Pagara and Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood since then. It was learnt the way Pir Saheb had handled the post-nomination scenario, it would be difficult for him to give the office of president of the PML-F’s Punjab chapter to Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood’s son. However, the party leaders believe things would get better between the party chief and coming Punjab Governor once the dust settles. In case the tension between the Pir and Makhdoom persisted, it would be a very hard ride for the Makhdoom of Jamaldinwali before and after the elections. Sources in the party are optimistic the family relations between the chief and the Makhdoom would finally help remove the temporary tension. Some also believe there are political compulsions on both sides.