Two is company, three is a crowd: Qureshi reveals intra-PTI rifts

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Serious rifts within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) surfaced on Sunday after the party’s Vice Chairman, Shah Mahmood Qureshi launched a scathing criticism of fellow party leaders Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, Jahangir Tareen and their Unity Group.

Addressing a workers’ convention of PTI’s Nazriati Group, Qureshi said that Sarwar had made repeated attempts to get him removed from his position as vice chairman of PTI.

“I will part ways with the party if I have to seek party tickets from people like Jahangir Tareen and Chaudhry Sarwar,” a visibly agitated Qureshi told his supporters.

Qureshi said that Hamid Khan Advocate was prominent in the struggle to restore an independent judiciary in the country and, likewise Yasmeen Rashid was present whenever the party workers were subjected to shelling during the sit-in days.

“Chaudhry Sarwar and Jahangir Tareen are trying to hijack the party by offering party tickets to workers for getting their support in intra-party elections,” he said, adding that he will ensure that tickets are awarded to workers on merit.

“Chaudhry Sarwar and Jahangir Tareen cannot influence Imran Khan’s decisions. How can these political novices teach us politics?”

“I do not believe in groupings within the party, I follow ideology. If any rich man thinks he can impose his will on the party then he’s disillusioned,” he said, adding that PTI was a democratic party and all decisions would be made in consultation with all leaders.

On the occasion, Hamid Khan Advocate said those considering hijacking the party were “living in a fool’s paradise”, adding that workers would defeat them with unity. “Nobody can hijack the party with the power of money. Workers will not let them create any PTI-Q in the party,” he added.

PTI Nazriati Group candidate for Punjab presidency Shafqat Mahmood, Shireen Mazari, Saifullah Khan Niazi, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Waleed Iqbal, Munazza Hassan, Rai Azizullah, Andleeb Abbas and several other leaders were also present on the occasion.

TAREEN AND SARWAR ‘DISAPPOINTED’ BY QURESHI’S REMARKS:

Reacting to Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s statement, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen said he held the veteran politician in high esteem and was not ready to believe that Qureshi actually felt this way.

“I’m disappointed with Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s remarks,” he said in a statement.

Chaudhry Sarwar also expressed “disappointment” over Qureshi’s statement.

“Shah Mahmood Qureshi is a big name in politics but today he sounded worried,” Sarwar said in a statement.

There have been reports of internal rifts within the PTI for quite some time now.

Differences between the top leaders started emerging after the by-elections on some constituencies in Punjab following the defeat of PTI candidates at the hands of the ruling PML-N.

A blame game triggered between party leaders over the party’s choice of candidate for the NA-144 by-poll in October last year.

The PTI had fielded Ashraf Sohna with the blessing of the party’s national organiser, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Sohna had quit the Pakistan People’s Party over differences with the party leadership.

Since the PTI’s defeat in the Okara-II ballot, fingers have been pointed at Qureshi – who spearheaded the entire campaign for the constituency – over “poor performance”.

In Lahore, PTI Punjab Organiser Chaudhry Sarwar had led the election campaign and his performance was appreciated by Imran Khan during his October 14 visit to the city. Qureshi was once again absent from the event.

Rumours have since been rife that Qureshi has decided to quit the PTI. However, he has been refuting all reports regarding his departure from the party.

Sources said that Sarwar had also called for looking into the decision of awarding the party ticket to Sohna. Interestingly, however, Sarwar was part of the panel that interviewed the candidates for awarding the party ticket for the Okara poll.

The party’s planned intra-party polls have also exposed the deteriorating relations between the top leaders as Qureshi is being increasingly sidelined by Chaudhry Sarwar, who is said to be enjoying a good working relationship with Tareen and is a frontrunner for the party’s top position in Punjab.