ABBOTTABAD: The politics of opportunism is on the rise as the general elections draw near and its latest example is the decision of former Mansehra district nazim Sardar Muhammad Yousaf to join the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
He was associated with the PML-N in the past and had abandoned it during General Pervez Musharraf’s rule to join the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in the company of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. At the time, he had complained about the “callous and indifferent” attitude of the Sharif brothers during their stint in power.
Sardar Yousaf, who enjoys support of the Gujjar tribe of Mansehra and is considered a formidable political figure irrespective of his past political affiliations announced joining the PML-N along with his two comrades; MPA Wajeehuzzaman and former provincial minister Tariq Khan Swati.
Sardar Yousaf was elected district nazim of Mansehra with the help of PML-Q and intelligence agents of Gen Musharraf in October 2005 as he could not contest the 2002 general election owing to the graduation condition. Instead, he fielded his son Sardar Shahjahan Yousaf who was elected as MNA on PML-Q ticket from NA-20 Mansehra-1 by securing 40,853 votes against 37,520 of independent candidate Lt Gen (r) Salahuddin Tirmizi and 35,576 bagged by Syed Ghulam Nabi Shah of MMA.
However, despite ambitions and efforts of father and son, Shahjahan Yousaf could not make it to the federal cabinet and was later made parliamentary secretary of water and power.
In the general elections of February 2008, Shahjahan Yousaf again got elected as PML-Q MNA by narrowly defeating Lt Gen (r) Tirmizi of PML-N. He obtained 73,644 votes against 72,526 bagged by the Tirmizi. Shahjahan Yousaf was sworn in as Minister of State for Technical Education on the day when the entire world was focused on Abbottabad after the raid by US Seals in the wee hours of May 2, 2011 to kill Osama bin Laden. Syed Qasim Shah, a political ally of Sardar Yousaf, was also inducted as prime minister’s special advisor. He was recently made provincial chief of PML-Q.
There was a general feeling that Shahjahan Yousaf and Qasim Shah were inducted in the government as a favour to divide the then popular Tehrik-e-Suba Hazara into two factions with one headed by the elderly Sardar Haider Zaman aka Baba and the other by Sardar Yousaf. Qasim Shah and Sardar Yousaf had the tacit support of former federal minister for petroleum, Amanullah Jadoon and ex-deputy speaker National Assembly Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob as all four were unhappy with Baba Haider Zaman’s decision to get Tehrik-e-Suba Hazara (TSH) registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan with the symbol of truck. They wanted TSH to remain a loose alliance of all parties till the general elections, but Baba wanted a firm commitment from them to side with TSH or their original parties.
In the meantime, Sardar Yousaf, his son Shahjahan and Qasim Shah continued to demand creation of Hazara province and launched own movement for the cause. This new political entity was named Suba Hazara Tehrik apparently to confuse people, but it wasn’t registered with the Election Commission.
The pragmatic and ambitious politician Sardar Yousaf during this period continued to flirt with the leadership of a number of political parties, including those led by Imran Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rahman. He held at least one meeting with Imran Khan and several with his party’s other stalwarts. He was in constant touch with JUI-F leadership and there were rumours that he might announce joining JUI-F during Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s visit to Mansehra. Political observers believe it was nothing short of a calculated bluff to get the attention of PML-N leadership and to convince it that Sardar Yousaf was electable and ready to join it.
Imran Khan too was all set to accept Sardar Yousaf and his son Shahjahan in his party’s fold sans his long-time colleague and once chief of Imran’s PTI in erstwhile NWFP, Shahzada Gustasip. Imran had the grudge that Shahzada Gustasip left his party to contest 2002 election as an independent and later became leader of the opposition in the provincial assembly. Imran Khan reportedly said that Gustasip left him in the lurch and won’t be welcomed back in PTI.
Being a seasoned politician in Mansehra, Sardar Yousaf played his cards well. He sprang a surprise by joining the PML-N and to prove again that politics of opposition does not suit the politicians of Hazara. After enjoying power for a decade as part of the “King’s party” i.e the PML-Q, he has joined hands with the PML-N in the hope that it is now Nawaz Sharif’s turn to come into power.
One still remembers the expletives all these leaders used in public meetings against Nawaz Sharif over the renaming of NWFP and PML-N’s role in 18th Amendment and subsequent unrest and killings of April 12, 2010 in Abbottabad. But all that is now a thing of the past and Sardar Yousaf and company are now in PML-N and heaping praise on Nawaz Sharif for his leadership qualities.
The big question now is the future course of action of Lt Gen (r) Tirmizi. Would he forego the next election to become a senator or ambassador if the PML-N comes into power? The coming days would unfold many interesting events on the political horizon of Hazara, particularly in Abbottabad, Haripur and Mansehra.