The Makhdoom makes up his mind
With Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the PTI gets its first major politician. A big fish in a small pond, as compared to what his situation would have been in his other suitor, the PML(N). Mr Qureshi has had a long career in practical politics, with a record including the mayoral assignment in his hometown Multan, a portfolio in the Nawaz Sharif Punjab cabinet, the symbolic PPP candidature for premiership in the ’02 national assembly, a short stint at the party’s Punjab presidency and, finally, being foreign minister at what most definitely was a testing time to hold the portfolio. He has been around the block and knows a thing or two about south Punjab. He is also a spiritual leader and, in addition to those from his own constituency, a number of his devotees come from Sindh; his Ghotki rally isn’t going to be his last one in the province down south. He is also said to have been a hardworking holder of public office, with his damage control in India post the 26/11 Mumbai attacks being a case in point.
Shah Mehmood’s entry into the PTI also means the party will take just about anyone into its midst. Not a fair allegation, yes, because the same could be said about any party. But the claim to be different from politics-as-usual is a heavy cross to bear and the PTI has to be judged according to those standards. The party has taken into its fold a party-hopping pir. In addition to that, as opposed to what the PTI media team keeps claiming, Mr Qureshi did not resign in protest from his ministry; he didn’t get the portfolio after a cabinet reshuffle. That was his fair share considering how critical he, as foreign minister, had been of his own government’s handling of the Raymond Davis affair. Party members also wince when played back some of Mr Qureshi’s speeches as foreign minister, where he explains to audiences in a clear and unequivocal manner about how the war on terror is, indeed, our war and that we are not merely fighting it for money or under duress. His assertion that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not safe under Zardari, PPP leaders point out, comes three years too late.
Letting the issue of ideologies (or lack thereof) slide and focusing on the realpolitik, we can expect Mr Qureshi to win his seat and those of his affiliates in the provincial assembly. Also expected is a muscular attempt, at the very least, at some jorr/torr in the adjoining areas. Politics as usual.