PTI sets eyes on Punjab’s finest as polls near

Opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan (C) gestures as he arrives to deliver a speech during an anti-government rally in Lahore on May 1, 2016, on the Panama Leaks issue. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged on April 22, 2016 to resign if a probe related to the Panama Papers tax scandal found his family had committed any wrongdoing. Three of Sharif's children were named in a vast leak of documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca this month that has revealed how the wealthy hide their money. / AFP PHOTO / ARIF ALI

–Several influential families from Central and South Punjab are expected to join the PTI in coming days

ISLAMABAD: As the general elections inch closer, Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has intensified its campaign to lure political bigwigs to the party fold, keeping in view the fluid political situation and the possibility of the emergence of independent candidates in the polls.

Pakistan Today has learnt on good authority that a large number of incumbent and former lawmakers are set to join PTI in the coming days. The list includes the Makhdooms of Rahimyar Khan, Cheemas and Shahs of Bahawalnagar, Noons from Shujaabad (Multan), Syeds and Herajs from Khanewal, Lalis from Jhang and Cheemas from Sargodha among others.

A senior PTI leader privy to the developments told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity that the PTI was in contact with many influential political families in Punjab and they are expected to join the party soon.

“We are in touch with many political bigwigs. While we have already done a lot of homework in central Punjab, we are now focusing on southern and northern districts of the province,” the PTI leader said.

Asked to identify the potential heavyweights likely to join the PTI, the politician said that in Rahimyar Khan, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar along with his younger brother and two other sitting Members of National Assembly (MNAs) are likely to join PTI.

In Bahawalnagar, PTI is all set to welcome Tahir Bashir Cheema, brother of Tariq Bashir Cheema who is the general secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).

“We are also in touch with Asghar Ali Shah who would join along with his group. Other local leaders are also in touch and modalities are being discussed,” the party leader said.

In Bahawalpur, the PTI is set to forge a seat-adjustment with the PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema while other local heavyweights are also in touch with the party.

In Multan, PML-N MNA Rana Qasim Noon is set to join the PTI while others are also in touch. It merits mention that Rana Qasim’s older brother, Rana Sohail Noon has already joined PTI.

The source said the party has almost finalised its strategy to win over all the bigwigs from Dera Ghazi Khan Division, including Rajan Pur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jatoi and Kot Addu districts.

“In Rajanpur, we have Dareshak-Mazari alliance while in DG Khan, we will bank on Khosa group and our formidable workers like Zartaj Gul, Humayon Akhund and others,” the PTI leader said.

In Muzaffargarh, Kot Addu and Jatoi districts, the PTI already has a significant number of heavyweights, including Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Moazzam Jatoi and Nawabzada Mansoor Ali Khan. PML-N’s sitting MNAs Sultan Mehmood Hinjra and Basit Sultan Bukhari are also in touch with the PTI.

If they fail to woo the PTI tickets, they would opt to contest as independent candidates. Mian Tariq Gurmani is also planning to contest as an independent.

From Jhang district, the Lali family is all set to join the PTI including Ghulam Mohammad Lali while Syed Group led by Syeda Abida Hussain and Syed Fakhar Imam. Sahibzada Nazir Sultan is also in touch with the PTI while Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan has already joined the PTI.

In Sargodha, Amir Cheema is likely to join the party while other local groups are also in touch.

The PTI is working quietly on former MNA Nadeem Afzal Gondal through his brother Wasim Afzal Gondal and his uncle Nazar Mohammad Gondal. However, Nadeem is taking time to make up his mind as Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is also trying to revive itself.

In Khanewal district, PML-N MNA Raza Hayat Heraj along with his group is all set to join the PTI, culminating the merger of Heraj group into the party fold. Raza’s cousin, Hamid Yar Heraj and other siblings are already in the PTI.

From Sargodha, Chaudhry Amir Cheema, the political heir of evergreen MNA Chaudhry Anwar Ali Cheema late, is all set to joining the PTI.

From Faisalabad, two formidable political groups – Chaudhry Nazir group and Sahi group – are in talks with the PTI. One out of the two would soon join the PTI.

When contacted for comments, PTI Secretary Information Chaudhry Fawwad Hussain said the party was in touch with a majority of the influential candidates of Punjab and the announcements in this regard would be made soon.

However, when pressed for details of the potential bigwigs set to join the PTI, Fawwad Chaudhry refused to confirm, saying it was politically indecorous to make public potential future of PTI leaders.


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