INAMULLAH KHATTAK and NOKHAIZ SAHI
ISLAMABAD - Power is the glue that holds politicians together but it loses its cohesiveness when they are out of power. Earlier this week, former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf were present at an Iftar reception at Islamabad Club but both the PPP leaders did not meet each other, preferring to stay in different halls.
Gilani was hosted by former MNA Nadeem Afzal Chan, who had invited several other party stalwarts as well. But the guest list was conspicuously missing those party leaders who are close to former president Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani was surrounded by those politicians who had enjoyed patronage under him in the last government or had troubled relations with Zardari.
Those missing included Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar, former interior minister Rehman Malik and Senator Aitzaz Ahsan.
PPP officials, speaking in background interviews, acknowledged that cracks have appeared within the party and PPP politicians, especially from Punjab, are increasingly feeling isolated and abandoned by the Sindh based top leadership of the party.
At the Tuesday Iftar event, held at the luxurious Islamabad Club, former PM Gilani mingled with his trusted allies and former cabinet colleagues, including former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, former ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, former deputy speaker of the national assembly Faisal Karim Kundi, former KP Governor Shaukatullah Khan, Akhunzada Chatan Khan and Shazia Aurangzaib.
None of the people recently appointed by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for looking after North Waziristan IDPs were invited to the Iftar. The committee members include PPP KP President Khanzada Khan, PPP Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo, PPP Balochistan President Sadiq Umrani, Ex-MNA Zamrud Khan, Sindh Parliamentary affairs Minister Dr Sikandar Mandharo, Senator Usman Saifullah Khan, Senator Rubina Khalid and PYO South Punjab President Nawazish Pirzada.
After corruption cases were reopened against Gilani and Amin Faheem, the former premier advised many party leaders to arrange for accommodations in the capital so that they could commune regularly.
Former MNA Akhunzada Chattan from Bajaur Agency, Faisal Karim Kundi who belongs to DI Khan, minister in Gilani cabinet from Khyber Agency Hamidullah Jan Afridi, former PPP lawmaker Noor Alam Khan from Peshawar and Nadem Afzal Chan are among those who have recently rented houses in the federal capital, and have been holding informal meetings.
Source close to Gilani assert that the former PM was perturbed by the lack of sympathy and support extended by PPP leadership after old corruption cases against him were reopened under the current regime of PML-N.
“When Gilani spoke the truth about PML-N being a party to Musharraf immunity deal, our top leaders came to rescue the PML-N but sadly they kept mum over the plight of Gilani and Amin Faheem,” a top aide of the former premier said.
The Syed from Multan, according to sources, has been holding meetings with PPP party officials who lean towards him and has been avoiding interaction with those close to Naudero. Key PPP leaders in Punjab also concerned over the inaction of top boss about the Punjab policy of the party and worry that Imran Khan is fast moving the disenchanted electorate.
On Wednesday, PPP leadership from Punjab and KP also held another meeting in Islamabad, the first ever since 2013 general elections and discussed the issues confronting the party and deliberated on strategies to tackle them.
The leaders concluded that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari must visit the Punjab and KP and meet the local leadership of both provinces to reinvigorate the party base. Around 15 former parliamentarians of PPP including Qamar Zaman Kaira, Imtaiz Safdar Warriach, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Noor Alam Khan, Faisal Kareem Kundi and Akhwanzada Chatan Khan attended the meeting.
Interestingly, former PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who belongs to Rawalpindi division, and PPP Punjab chapter president Mian Mazoor Wattoo were not invited to the meeting, sources told The Nation. “Wattoo is a landlord and had been made president of the party’s Punjab chapter but his position is nothing more than that of a UPS, when there is loadshedding,” a senior party member from Punjab quipped.
Members from the KP lamented the fact that party leadership was ignoring them and they could not even meet Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari after general elections. A former member of federal cabinet said that members of PPP Punjab were of the view that Sindh dominates polices of the party while the members from country’s largest province were being ignored.
“The disgruntled members of Punjab have started thinking of joining other political parties,” a party source said. “Some of them have even started contacting rival political groups.”