PPP’s curious politics

By Aima Khosa
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

A news report published in daily Pakistan Today revealed PPP’s politics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As the party is gearing up for elections, reshuffling and maneuvering within the party and outside has begun with full gusto.

The article revealed that in KP, ANP, a long standing coalition partner of PPP, may be feeling some form of alienation. This matter has not been revealed publically, especially not after the death of Bilaur, but there have been rumors of disgruntled grumblings among the middle-ranking members of ANP on some of the statements made by PPP KP leader, Saifullah Anwar. The PPP leader has also managed to break into some of PML-N ranks in the province by bringing at least four members to PPP. MPA Meher Sultana, former member of PML-N, announced her intention to join PPP in a period of less than a month. Earlier, upon differences with senior leadership of PML-N, Shazia Aurangzeb, her husband and Sardar Mushtaq, an MNA from Haripur, joined PPP as well.

So far, no one from Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) has announced their intention to switch to PPP. However, the appointment of Saifullah as PPP KP president might prove to be a blow to JUI. Before the appointment, JUI enjoyed the support of various leaders from the southern part of the province, including heirs of late MNA Kabir Khan from Lakki Marwat, PPP Bannu Division President Malik Riaz, sitting MPA from Hangu Attique-Ur- Rahman and ex-ANP MPA from Kohat, Shaukat Habib. Reports of a cold war between JUI and PPP in the northern province have emerged as a result of Saifullah’s appointment. PPP also managed to do some damage to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The PPP has managed to win back Ifitikhar Jaghra and talks are in progress with several other leaders, including former provincial minister Pervez Khattak and Yaseen Khalil. Saifullah even recommended Khawaja Mohammad Khan Hoti to join PPP. However, there was internal opposition to this idea, forcing Hoti to find a place for himself in PML-N. This may pose a threat to PPP as Hoti has a strong constituency in Mardan.

Furthermore, there have been rumors of reconciliation efforts by Saifullah to form some understanding between PPP’s central leadership and Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao. This understanding may mean that there could be a seat-to-seat agreement between PPP and Sherpao.

These reconciliation and maneuvering tactics of the PPP leader has found some support from Haji Ghulam Ali (member of JUI) who has encouraged the JUI leadership to consider a PPP-JUI alliance. However, such an alliance might cause problems in the future as there are several hopefuls for chief minister slot in KP, including Saifullah himself.

Moving to Punjab, the PPP leadership managed to shake things up with the sudden appointment of Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmud as governor of Punjab. This was a strong message from Zardari to the Seraiki belt that PPP is serious about pursuing electoral votes from the area. A soft coup by PPP in southern Punjab, Mahmud’s appointment matters a great deal. Sources have revealed that Mahmud was Zardari’s choice for the job because of his good relations with the PML-N and PML-Q leadership. Calling himself an agriculturist, Mahmud owns about 51 percent of JDW group. Besides strong credentials with the Pakistani government, Mahmud is very well-connected. His first cousin is Yousaf Raza Gillani, the late Pir Sahab Pagaro was his Uncle and his brother is married to Bushra Nawaz Gardezi of the powerful Gardezi Clan. And the current Pir Pagaro, Pir Sibghat Ullah Rashdi is also related to him by blood. Jehangir Tareen is not only a close friend (Although they are going through a rough patch now) but he is also family to the new Governor. Also his son now is the new Punjab President of the PML – F.

This naturally means that the new governor has strong ties with the Seraiki belt, and come election time, he stands a stronger chance of bolstering PPP’s presence in that region. It has also put PML-N on quite a dilemma. Do they reject the new governor, and risk alienating the already disenchanted Seraikis even more? Or do they accept the new governor quietly and resign themselves to a pro-PPP interim set up?

With Bilawal Bhutto formally entering the political arena with an impressive (albeit rehearsed) performance on Thursday, PPP is making sure that it have a dynamic presence in the upcoming elections. PML-N leadership has been shouting itself hoarse that it will not stand for delayed elections. But given the way things stand, PPP is good to go even today. The faltering economy, the poor law and order situation and Zardari’s and Gilani’s sins will cease to matter when a bigger game of reshuffling is happening within the upper echelons of our political circles. What will matter more, then, is how the seat-to-seat arrangements come to be and how many more people PPP can manage to reign in before the elections.