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December 26, 2011

Who will join PTI in Sindh?


Web Desk
December 26, 2011

With the PTI’s momentous rally at the Quaid’s mausoleum in the city on Sunday, Sindh’s political landscape is likely to undergo significant changes within the next 15 days, as political loyalties are going to alter at an alarming rate.
Some influential political leaders of the province are likely to join the fast-growing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf in the next few weeks. Liaquat Jatoi from Dadu may join the party by January 15 while Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Arbab Ghulam Rahim would jump on the PTI bandwagon during Imran Khan’s rally in Thar in January, sources told The News.
The sources said that the change of political loyalties would see its climax on February 15.
Due to Imran Khan’s growing popularity and the rumours of an impending coup, influential political families have sensed a change of political set-up in the country by March. Many of them are convinced that Khan is set to become the next prime minister of the country due to the support he enjoys from the mighty establishment.
However, despite Khan’s growing popularity in Punjab and some urban centres he is he almost unknown in Sindh’s rural areas. Therefore, Qureshi’s political connections would be exploited to turn the winds in PTI’s favour in interior Sindh.
Qureshi has been tasked to engage in talks with all those PPP, PML-Q and PML-N leaders who have significant votes in their interior Sindh constituencies. The former foreign minister and PPP deserter is also in contact with certain nationalist groups.
Qureshi would start his tour of interior Sindh in the first week of January. He has already held meetings with leaders of four “like-minded groups”. One of the groups is headed by Liaquat Jatoi, the second by Arbab Ghulam Rahim, the third by Ali Gohar Mahar and the fourth by Maqbool Sheikh. All these leaders are deserters of Q-League.
Three important PPP leaders, including two sitting MPAs, would join the PTI after the government

dissolved, a source added. The source who attended Qureshi’s meeting with the “like-minded” groups claimed the PPP-led government’s days are numbered.
However, the PPP has formed its own task force, led by Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durran and Food Minister Nadir Magsi, to negotiate with the leaders of the like-minded group, including Ali Gohar Mahar, Liaquat Jatoi and Altaf Unnar, to bring them into PPP’s fold before the PTI wins their loyalty.
During an informal chat with journalists at his residence, a former PML-N leader admitted off-the-record that he was coming closer to Qureshi.
“Qureshi has given us an indication of political change in the country,” said one source familiar with Qureshi’s meeting with a key politician of Sindh. The source named certain political families who had given a “positive response” to the PTI. They would join the emerging party during its rallies in their respective areas.
The source said that influential leaders of Naushehro Feroz, Dadu, Thar, Larkana and Kashmore had given ‘positive response’ to Qureshi in their initial talks.
Meanwhile, three influential political families — Mahars, Jatois and Unars — held a meeting in Karachi some five days ago to chalk out a future course of action in view of the rapidly changing political scenario. One former minister and now a PPP leader is also in contact with this group, the source said.
On the other hand, four friends and former PML-Q leaders — Maqbool Sheikh, Mir Manzoor Panhwar, Saleem Jan Mazari and Murad Ali Shah — have formed their own group and are likely to join the PTI soon, the source said.
A source quoting the former foreign minister said that the PTI had almost completed its task in Punjab and now they would focus Sindh.
Concerned over these developments, the source said that President Asif Ali Zardari was making contacts with Mahars, Jatois and Unars to persuade them to join the PPP or make an alliance. However, chances are grim that they may join the ruling party because of the government’s weak position, as turncoats are convinced that the establishment is done with the PPP for the time being.
During his talks with the PPP’s task force, Liaquat Jatoi linked his joining the ruling party only if his relative, Mohammed Shah, was given a seat in the next elections from Dadu.
However, the source said that PPP’s Senior Minister for Education Pir Mazharul Haq was against any such move.
President Zardari himself met Ali Gohar Mahar recently and asked him to join his party. But Mahar reportedly told the president he had to consult his “like-minded friends” before taking a decision. Similarly, the source said Altaf Unar was expected to meet the president on December 28 in Larkana.
One source said majority of turncoats were adopting a wait-and-see policy which would continue till February 15 when situation would become clearer about the PPP’s prospects of completing its tenure.
One nationalist leader revealed that Qureshi would start his Sindh tour by visiting the residence of Syed Jalal Mahmood Shah, chief of the Sindh United Party (SUP) and grandson of late G M Syed. According to him, the nationalist group would not merge with the PTI but form an alliance with it.
The sources claimed a shift was being witnessed in the politics of Jalal Shah. On Dec 23, he told a jalsa in Hyderabad: “Pakistan was created by our elders and it is our responsibility to protect it at every level.”
His grandfather, GM Syed, had abandoned electoral politics, but his successor seems to be changing the course of his politics.
Recently, a group of former politicians, intellectuals and journalists has been formed in Sindh who call themselves reformists. This group has given a call to hold a huge gathering at Bhit Shah on January 22. A source said that they may form their own party or join an existing party.

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