Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) President Anwar Saifullah, in his attempt to make the province a PPP stronghold, is at odds with major parties in the province, including PPP’s coalition partner, the Awami National Party (ANP).
Since assuming the party office in August last year, Saifullah has been eyeing influential politicians in the province belonging to different political parties to garner support for PPP in the upcoming elections. At the same time he has been throwing dirt at ANP for poor governance and corruption in the province. ANP chief Asfandyar Wali however, has turned a blind eye to Saifullah’s rhetoric in lieu of his understanding with President Asif Ali Zardari. Some ANP members in the past couple of days have however, criticised Saifullah for his rhetoric against his own coalition partners.
Meher Sultana became the second female MPA from PML-N who announced joining PPP in a period of less than a month. Earlier, Shazia Aurangzeb along with her spouse became part of PPP after developing differences with the PML-N high command. MNA Sardar Mushtaq from Haripur has also changed his loyalties in favour of PPP. Disassociation of these three is a major setback for PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. Jehanzeb Khattak, who happens to be Meher Sultana’s brother, had served PML-N at a very critical juncture when the Sharif family was in exile. However, he became alienated with the Sharifs for resuming links with former foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan and his son Omar Ayub and has also joined PPP’s ranks.
So far no heavyweights from Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam have joined the PPP but Saifullah’s nomination as PPP provincial president meant curtailing of JUI-F in southern districts of the province. Before his nomination, Rehman’s JUI-F had been able to gather leading figures from the area. Amongst them were heirs of late MNA Kabir Khan from Lakki Marwat, PPP Bannu Division President Malik Riaz, sitting MPA from Hangu, Attique Rahman and ex-ANP MPA from Kohat, Shaukat Habib. Since the 2008 general elections, JUI-F was on an offensive but after Saifullah’s nomination, the party has opted for a defensive position without creating many inroads. Now there seems to be a cold war between PPP and JUI-F in the southern districts of KP.
The PPP provincial leadership has also made visible cracks amongst the ranks of Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI). So far they have succeeded in bringing back Iftikhar Jhagra whereas talks are in progress with several others including ex-provincial ministers Pervez Khattak and Yaseen Khalil. Saifullah had even suggested that Khawaja Mohammad Khan Hoti be asked to rejoin PPP but some central leaders opposed the idea forcing Hoti from Mardan to adjust himself in PML-N. After losing several heavyweights, it could be hard for the PTI leadership to compete with PPP in general elections.
This settlement could cause hardships for PPP in Mardan which was once considered a stronghold of the party. Likewise, reports suggest Saifullah has been making attempts at reconciliation between the PPP high command and Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao or a seat adjustment between the two parties. Saifullah’s active political manoeuvres could force other political forces to enter into alliances or agree on seat adjustments with each other. So far Fazlur Rehman is reluctant for restoration of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in its original shape but Saifullah could compel him to welcome Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Munawar Hussain back into the MMA while PML-N and ANP could go back to an alliance like that in the ‘90s.