More defections on the cards for PML-N in Sindh

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Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) continues to suffer from defections as members of the Sheerazi group of the Nawaz-league and other lawmakers of Sindh, including Ghulam Arbab Rahim, have started considering joining the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the coming days, for which contacts have already been established.

According to reliable sources, a rift between the Sheerazi group and PML-N developed after the party’s central leadership ignored their candidate for the post of Sindh governor last year in February.

Syed Shafqat Shah Sheerazi, the head of the Sheerazi group, was a strong contender for the slot of Sindh governor. Shafqat’s political reputation as a ‘kingmaker’ in rural Sindh is well known, especially in Thatta and the surrounding areas.

Other members of the group, including PML-N members of provincial assembly (MPAs) Shah Hussain Shah, Aijaz Hussain Shah Sheerazi, independent MPA Amir Haider Shah Sheerazi and independent member of National Assembly (MNA) Aijaz Ali Shah Sheerazi, had used their influence to get Shafqat appointed as Sindh governor, but to no avail.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had instead pushed for Muhammad Zubair’s nomination, which created major rifts between the Sheerazis and the PML-N leadership. It merits mention here that after coming into power in 2013, the PML top leadership had assured the Sheerazis that their candidate would replace then Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad.

After Ebad’s departure from office in 2016, the ruling party appointed Justice (r) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui as governor, whose death in 2017 led to the appointment of Muhammad Zubair. Shafqat was ignored both times by the PML-N leadership.

A PML-N lawmaker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “The Sheerazis did not take kindly to PML-N’s decision and had decided back then to depart from the party at an opportune moment.”

When Shah Hussain Shah Sheerazi was contacted for comment, he denied any contacts with the PTI. “We are still associated with PML-N and no other party has so far extended us an invitation to join them,” he said.

Sources said that MNA Ramesh Kumar, who recently ditched PML-N for PTI, was spearheading his party’s strategy to identify and break dissident lawmakers from other political parties.

Nevertheless, defections are not unique to PML-N only, as members of the Malkani and Abro families from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were also in contact with the PTI, the sources added.

According to a PML-N dissenter in Sindh, while requesting anonymity, said that PML-N members in Sindh had created differences with the ruling party not only on the appointment of the governor but also because the PML-N leadership was apathetic to party matters in Sindh. Delays in the provision of funds was another reason behind defections in the province, he added.