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April 17, 2018

Imran relying too much on fair-weather friends


April 17, 2018

LAHORE:While accepting the politicians having a history of ditching their parties during critical times, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is inviting trouble for his party which may face split within its ranks before the upcoming general elections.

Almost all the sitting MPs of PML-N who have joined PTI since last month are well-known fair weather friends who always have prefered to go with the tide and never showed any strong commitment to the parties at the time of crisis despite getting elected on their tickets.

Moreover, in different constituencies of Punjab, PTI is repeating similar mistake which it did before 2013 general elections that from one area, it had accepted the figures representing two or more rival groups which eventually led to rifts in its cadres at the time of awarding tickets and caused split of votes which eventually benefitted the PML-N or other parties.

In the first three months of 2018 which is the election year, the noted political figures who joined PTI include PML-N MNAs Mian Tariq from Gujranwala, Bilal Virk from Nankana, Dr Nisar Ahmed Jutt from Faisalabad, minority MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar from Tharparkar, MPAs Raza Nasar Ullah Ghumman from Faisalabad and some more.

It would be difficult to accomodate two or more PTI ticket aspirants who earlier contested against each other in a same constituency in the past on different party tickets. It would put at stake the political future of those who are denied tickets. To remain politically alive in their constituency, the figure who is denied a ticket will have to look for all other possible option once he isn’t ready to keep the field open for the other rival group.There has been multiple examples of such kind, particularly in the central Punjab region which is headed by Abdul Aleem Khan.

To start with Gujranwala district which is part of the central Punjab region, Mian Tariq, an MNA from previous NA-98 (now NA-80) who emerged victorious against the former PPP MNA and State Minister Imtiaz Safdar Warraich has now joined PTI.

Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, who once served as head of PPP Punjab Chapter and has been elected as MPA in 1993, MNA in 2002 and 2008 on the ticket of Pakistan People’s Party is now also in the PTI fold. Imtiaz had joined PTI before his local opponent Mian Tariq. Now both the big wigs are in the PTI. It reamins the question who would get the party ticket. In 2002 general elections, Imtiaz Safdar Warraich had won from NA-98 (now NA-80) while bagging 45,655 votes and Azam Cheema of PML-Q stood at number two position with around 3,7000 votes followed by Ch Ashraf Warraich of PML-J who got around 22,000 votes. MMA candidate and stalwart of Jamaat e Islami Bilal Qudrat Butt in that election got 17,800 votes, whereas, PML-N candidate Sardar Zia ul Haq was at number five with 7,366 votes. In 2008 elections, Imtiaz Warraich once again emerged victorious from there bagging 68,509 votes followed by Asif Aqeel of PML-N who got 46,992 votes. Rana Shamshad, the PML-Q candidate in that election, stood at number three with around 30, 000 votes.

In 2013 general elections, PML-N ticket holder Mian Tariq won from there with a huge margin and got 118,832 votes followed by 37,372 votes bagged by PPP candidate Imtiaz Safdar Warraich. PTI candidate Rana Shehzad had got 20,778 votes.

In the 2018 general elections, two former rivals are now in the same party and neither is willing to vacate the field, thus multiplying the challenges for the party leadership. Some of the party insiders also hold the view that PTI may pitch Mian Tariq from the Gujranwala City seat against Khurrem Dastgir Khan and in this way, there could be no contest between the two partymen over the ticket for NA-80.

In Nankana, a scion of a noted political family of the district, Bilal Virk, after serving as MNA of PML-Q in 2002, MNA of PML-N in 2008 and 2013 terms, has joined the fourth political party of his career.

Bilal’s family remained associated with PPP for years and he is the nephew of Tawakkal Virk, former PPP stalwart, MNA and Sheikhupura district Nazim in 2001.

Bilal started his career from the local body elections of 1998. He also remained union council Nazim in 2001 while his uncle was elected as the district nazim, the election he won as a PPP candidate with a PML-N Naib district Nazim. Though, Bilal claims he was independent canidate.

A few months after winning the election, the group of Tawakkal Virk joined PML-Q and Bilal Virk was fielded as the PML-Q candidate from NA-136 in 2002 general elections which he won while getting 63,617 votes. Next to him was Syed Akber Shah of PPP who got around 40, 000 votes, whereas, PML-N candidate Syed Walayat Shah Advocate stood at number three with 15,352 votes.

In late 2007 while Sharifs were abroad, with the lobbying of Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa who was serving as the head of PML-N Punjab Chapter, Bilal joined Nawaz League and got the ticket in 2008 polls which he also won against his own uncle, Tawakkal Virk, who contested the election as a PPP candidate. In that election, Bilal Virk got 49,681 votes followed by Peer Tariq Shah of PML-Q who got 39,371 votes and PPP stood at number three with 24,911 votes bagged by Tawakkal Virk.

In 2013, Bilal was once again contested the election as a PML-N candidate and he won while getting 73,775 votes against Shahid Manzur Gill of PML-Q who secured around 36,000 votes. PTI candidate Chaudhry Yaqoob was got around 33,000 votes.

By 2018, Bilal has said goodbye to the PML-N and now siding with PTI and he is also likely to contest from NA-122, a seat falling in Sheikhupura, not his own Warbarton area from where he won thrice.

Under the fresh delimitations, NA-135 and NA-136 have been converted into NA-117 and NA-122. Most of the areas from where Bilal won are now in NA-122, a constituency which comprises the areas of Bhikki, Kharyawala, Farooqabad, Khanqa Dogra and Manawala. On this seat, Ali Salman Siddique, MPA, who got elected as independent candidate and joined PTI after winning the polls has also announced to contest from there. In this way, PTI has two potential candidates, representing rival groups who are up against each other over the issue of party ticket.

Bilal, who has been MNA for three consecutive terms will certainly not agree to withdraw himself from the race for the party ticket, whereas Ali Salman, who is an old guard in the PTI as compared to Bilal, too isn’t ready to budge an inch over party ticket for the NA-122 slot. Ali Salman, son of former Punjab Chief Secretary Salman Siddique, was elected from PP-168 in 2013 general elections and was among a few independents who had defeated the might of PML-N in the central Punjab area. Ali defeated PML-N candidate, and a former MPA, Tanvir Ahmed Nasir while securing 24,813 votes. In that contest, PML-N candidate got around 22,000 votes whereas PTI candidate Imran Saeed got 6,589 votes.

The local PTI supporters may also show their dissent towards Bilal while keeping in view his history of switching loyalties but he himself thinks otherwise.

“First of all, I totally disagree with this argument that I am a fair-weather friend and go with the tide” said Bilal Virk while talking to The News. He said he won the first general election on PML-Q ticket and quit that party while it was in power and Sharifs were not even in Pakistan. He said he joined PML-N while it was in a critical phase as Nawaz Sharif had faced a very recent deportation when he attempted to return to Pakistan. Bilal said he had met Sharifs in London and joined the PML-N.

He also said that in 2008, PML-N had no hope of winning the election and it was the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto which created a vacuum of leadership and PML-N made a comeback. “By no means, I could have won the poll on PML-N ticket in ordinary circumstances, the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto changed the dynamics and PML-N won most of the seats in 2008” said Bilal Virk.

To a question, he said for the last many months, he had issues with PML-N leadership due to which he preferred to quit the party.

Having two strong and influential candidates up against each other in the election arena, PTI could become the ultimate loser. However, in case, PTI leadership succeeds in finding an amicable solution for both aspirants, it could put PML-N to real test which is expected to field Irfan Dogar from there.

In Kasur district, two noted political rivals and former Foreign Ministers Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali are once again in the same party and aspirants for the party ticket. Like the past, both can’t afford to vacate the field for the other and have to contest the poll.

Almost the similar situation now prevails in Faisalabad district where former party colleagues, who chose different platform are once again seen riding the same bandwagon in form of PTI.

To start with NA-80 (now NA-105), the latest entry from this constituency is of the sitting MPA of PML-N Raza Nasar Ullah Ghumman who is also a ticket aspirant for the NA seat where already former MNA Asif Tauseef is siding with PTI.

Raza Nasar Ullah Ghumman remained associated with the PPP and served as District Naib Nazim when the PPP-backed group led by Chaudhry Zahid Nazir won the local body polls in 2001.

Raza got PPP ticket for NA-80 in 2002 and lost to Rana Asif Tauseef of PML-N after a close contest in which he got over 40, 000 votes whereas the winner got around 43,000 votes. Sardar Dildar Cheema, another noted political figure, got around 41, 000 votes in that contest as a PML-Q candidate.

Raza Nasar Ullah Ghumman also sided with Q League when the group of Zahid Nazir joined the then ruling party, and by 2008, he parted ways with Chaudhrys and joined the PML-N.

Raza won the 2008 and 2013 polls as MPA on PML-N ticket and also contested as independent candidate in the last general elections from NA-80 but lost. He has now left the PML-N and is now in the PTI fold, at a time when N League is in a crisis.

In the 2013 general elections, NA-80 was won by PML-N candidate Mian Mohammed Farooq who got 96, 000 votes followed by Asif Tauseef of PML-Q who secured 54,427 votes. PTI candidate Mian Naeem also remained prominent with 25,000 votes.

Raza Nasar Ullah Ghumman, who was a PML-N ticket holder of a provincial seat, nevertheless, contested as an independent candidate while bagging around 5,000 votes.

Now the challenges are multiplying there for PTI as not only one, or two, but three noted figures of the same constituency are the ticket aspirants and PTI has to chose one of them. If it denies ticket to Raza and prefers Asif Tauseef, the former, like 2013 general elections may pitch himself as an independent candidate, whereas, Mian Naeem, the PTI ticket holder who got around 25, 000 votes and sided with party, is another figure whom the party has to accommodate. Raza Nasar Ullah Ghumman while talking to The News stated that he had always sided with principles. He said his differences with PML-N leadership started in 2014 during a period when PTI had staged a sit-in to exert pressure on the government. He stated he had advised the PML-N leadership to avoid indulging in confrontation and try to find amicable solutions to the issue rather than itself becoming the part of the agitation. Ghumman said that he had joined PTI under a principle and stated as far as the matter related to party ticket was concerned, it was up to the leadership to decide whom it considered suitable as its candidate for any seat.

In the very next constituency, which was earlier NA-81 and now NA-106, PTI leadership has multiplied trouble for itself while filling its bandwagon with too many noted individuals of the same area.

Former MNA Dr Nisar Ahmed Jutt, former PPP Punjab President and MPA for four terms Rana Aftab Ahmed and PTI ticket holder in 2013 general elections Jehanzaib Imtiaz Gill are in the PTI. All these three are aspirants for the NA slot candidature and none of them is ready to withdraw. This is noteworthy that all these three figures were winners on PPP tickets in the 2002 general elections in which Dr Nisar won the MNA seat, whereas, Rana Aftab and Jehanzaib Imtiaz Gill won the provincial assembly seats.

To start with Dr Nisar Ahmed Jutt, a doctor of medicine who did his graduation from Liaqut Medical College, Jamshoro, Sindh and spent most of his life in the cities of Hyderabad and Digri, had got the PPP ticket as former MNA and his father-in-law Ilyas Jutt couldn’t contest the election due to graduation bar. Amongst the current lot of politicians who have joined PTI, he seems to be leading the race when it comes to switching loyalties. Between 2002, since he contested for the firs time, till date, Dr Nisar Ahmed had remained associated with PPP-Parliamentarian, PPP-Patriot, PML-Q and PML-N.

Dr Nisar Ahmed Jutt won the NA-81 election in 2002 while securing 58,855 votes and defeated PML-Q candidate Chaudhry Talib Hussain who got around 52,000 votes.

In a month after winning the polls, Dr Nisar Ahmed became the part of a rebel PPP group led by Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and Rao Sikander Iqbal in the form of PPP-Patriot. By 2004, PPP-Patriot merged into PML-Q and Dr Nisar served as PML-Q MNA till the end of this term. In 2008, he contested as the PML-Q candidate and lost to PPP’s Saeed Iqbal. In that contest, the winner got 65,322 votes, whereas, Dr Nisar Ahmed got 55,646 votes. PML-N candidate Nisar Akber Khan stood at number three with around 23, 000 votes.

Before the 2013 general elections, Dr Nisar Ahmed joined PML-N, the fourth party of his political career and was awarded ticket from NA-80 in which he emerged victorious with a huge margin over PPP candidate Saeed Iqbal and PTI candidate Jehanzaib Gill.

In 2018, while PML-N is in crisis, Dr Nisar has switched to PTI and he is now an aspirant for the NA seat again. Jehanzaib Gill, the former PPP MPA who joined PTI after 2011 and remained its candidate in 2013, is also leading the race for party ticket followed by Rana Aftab Ahmed.

This is noteworthy that PML-N is planning to field Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah Khan from this seat. This area traditionally has been a Jutt-dominated part of Faisalabad and mostly members from Jutt clan have emerged victorious on the NA seats.

Besides, Rajput candidates, including Rana Aftab, have also won from there on the provincial seats which means that the upcoming battle there will be between Jutt and Rajputs.

The death of Ilyas Jutt has come as a setback to the group of Nisar as most of the time, it was Ilyas Jutt himself who had looked after the affairs related to constituency even though Nisar was MNA.

Nisar Ahmed in the absence of his father-in-law has to go extra mile to maintain the personal vote bank, whereas, within party, he is also in competition with figures like Jahanzaib Imtiaz Gill, another Jutt from this area.

In order to defeat PML-N and a candidate like Rana Sana Ullah, PTI has to devise its strategy quite wisely as it can’t ignore its ticket holder like Jahanzaib Imtiaz as denying ticket to him will ultimately cause loss to the party.

Talking to The News, sitting MNA from this seat and now a PTI figure, Dr Nisar Ahmed Jutt stated that he had parted ways with PML-N over principles and core issues like Tahaffuz e Namoos e Risalat (SAW). He said the PML-N leadership never showed any respect to the elected representatives and he had expressed his anger openly before it, in and out of parliament. Besides, he said over the issue of Namoos e Risalat (SAW), there could be no compromise at all.

When asked why did he quit PPP after winning on its ticket in 2002, he said at that time there was a constitutional crisis in the country, and, to protect the parliament, he felt it necessary to become the part of PPP-Patriot group. He said the group later merged into Q league and he contested on its ticket in 2008, adding that it was necessary to join any party to address the issues of the people of his constituency, and he joined PML-N in 2013 after thorough consultation with the people of his constituency.

PTI has also accepted Dr Ramesh Kumar, a former MPA of PML-Q in 2002, a former ticket aspirant of PPP for 2012 Senate polls and the MNA on PML-N between 2013 and 2018. Dr Ramesh is also the head of Pakistan Hindu Council and hails from Islamkot, a town of Tharparker. He remained in PML-Q and quit the party once it was in crisis in post-2008 elections scenario. Sources in the PPP stated he also lobbied to get the Senate ticket from Balochistan, but at the last moment, the party refused him and he fielded himself as an independent candidate but lost. In 2013, when the group of PPP leader from Balochistan Lashkar Raeesani joined PML-N, he was also the part of it and was made MNA by PML-N. Now Dr Ramesh is siding with PTI when the PML-N is in a critical phase. Talking to The News, Dr Ramesh Kumar stated his entire politics revolved around the interest of Pakistan, and the PTI seemed the best platform where one could do the politics of principles.

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