ISLAMABAD – The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is staring at a major dent in its ranks as the powerful Leghari clan from Dera Ghazi Khan has decided to leave the party, a move that could be potentially followed by another half a dozen former ministers and legislators, known as “elect-ables”.
These elect-able leaders have been waiting to part ways with Imran Khan in utter desperation and frustration for being ignored time and again by the party chief and his preference for non-elect-ables and technocrats, Pakistan Today has learnt reliably.
More than two PTI leaders told Pakistan Today that since there was no more a visible support of the establishment to the PTI, traditional politicians who were in a habit of changing their political affiliations with a hope of gaining power within days and weeks, are now weighing their options due to Imran’s unfriendly attitude and his preference for experts.
Although PTI Information Secretary Shafqat Mahmood expressed ignorance about any such development taking place within the party ranks, internal bickering and frustration within the PTI has reached an all time high and traditional politicians are openly expressing their anger against “technocrats”, who according to them “had no constituency” but were being given much importance by Imran, while they were being totally ignored in the party’s decision-making process and press interactions.
“Among those who had joined the PTI only a few months back dreaming for acquiring power within days and weeks are now repenting their bad decision-making. Among the upset leaders are the Hotis of Mardan, Awans of Chakwal and several others,” a well-placed source in the PTI said, requesting not to be named.
“Imran Khan used to take pride in claiming before the media that he would soon get more wickets of opponents. But this time around he is going down, as his own wickets are ready to fall with around half a dozen party leaders set to leave the party once the Legharis make their decision public,” the source said. The source added that disappointed politicians who had decided to leave the party included Sardar Jamal Khan Leghari and Sardar Owais Khan Leghari of DG Khan, Malik Ghulam Abbas of Chakwal, Malik Amin Aslam from Khushab and Khawaja Khan Hoti of Mardan.
“Legharis are also angry over being ignored in the party’s recent nominations when Ishaq Khan Khakwani was appointed the central vice president in place of Owais Leghari, who had requested for the same slot. However, Imran Khan preferred Khakwani over Leghari junior which infuriated him. After making up his mind, Sardar Owais Leghari recently informed Imran Khan of his decision to leave the PTI. He also informed him the reasons of his decision to leave the party, contending that he wanted to keep his Leghari tribe intact as his uncles Maqsood Leghari and Jaffer Leghari were unhappy with his decision of joining the PTI. However, Leghari assured Imran Khan that his family would contest next elections independently and would not join any other party,” the source added.
He said Owais Leghari also informed Imran that if his family did not contest the next election together, it might lose all seats in DG Khan and any split within the family might cost them heavily.
The source said the disappointed politicians were unhappy with the assertion that the PTI had been “hijacked” by technocrats who had no constituency but they were dictating terms to politicians who had been elected by their people.
However, the insider said the Legharis were in fact unhappy for being ignored by Imran Khan, as they were never consulted on major decisions, which were being made solely by technocrats and Imran.
“The PTI has become a party run by technocrats and the Niazi family who have no understanding of politics. Today, the PTI is being run by Imran Khan Niazi, Hafeezullah Niazi, Saifullah Niazi, Inamullah Niazi, Asad Umar, etc. Politicians like Javed Hashmi, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Owais Leghari and others have either been sidelined or have simply been ignored,” the source quoted an angry politician as saying during a recent party meeting held at Lahore.
Another source in the PTI confirmed that the Legharis had decided to leave the party, adding that Khawaja Khan Hoti had also decided to leave.
“Actually, too much influence of Niazis has virtually sidelined all political heavyweights. Moreover, the Niazis have also been urging old party workers to harass newcomers and the party is fast turning into a liberal fascist group,” the source added.
The source said Imran Khan tried to impress seasoned politicians in private meetings by claiming that the Goldsmith family was supporting his political career and Zac and Ben Goldsmith, both brothers of Jemima Khan, referred to him as the next prime minister of Pakistan.
“This might be a major reason behind the establishment backing out from supporting the PTI due to Goldsmith family’s influence on Imran.”
The source added that the politicians were realizing that they had joined an inexperienced politician who had no knowledge of ground realities and the tricks of trade necessary to win elections in Pakistan.
“Even Shah Mahmood Qureshi is facing a tough time from his family for joining the PTI and is facing family disputes of one or the other kind,” the source added.
“After facing a jolt due to departure of his younger brother Murid Qureshi, Shah Qureshi was left red-faced at a recent family get together when his brother-in-law Pir Shujaat Hasnain Qureshi, a former MPA, stunned the gathering by complaining that he was being harassed in the PTI by old workers. He also complained that they were happy in the PPP, but Qureshi’s decision had landed them in trouble with no hopes of winning the next election,” the source added.
He said on the other hand, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi had also been sidelined and he had been working in isolation. However, the source added that Hashmi had exhausted all his options and was forced to stick with the PTI.
PTI leader Shafqat Mahmood neither contradicted nor confirmed the development, saying, “I have no knowledge about any such development.”
However, when asked if he was not contradicting Pakistan Today’s information it would mean that he was confirming it, Mahmood took cognizance of the situation and said he would contradict.
But former PTI secretary information Umar Sarfraz Cheema came up with a bold stance and said people would come and go but the PTI would stick to its ideology and policies.
“It is the democratic right of a politician to join or leave a party per his ideology. However, it appears such people could not get what they were dreaming of from the PTI,” he added. Cheema said perhaps such people thought they would be given party tickets upon joining the PTI, adding that the PTI had a laid down criteria and procedure under which tickets and offices would be given.
Asked about the withdrawal of support by establishment to the PTI, Cheema said the PTI never sought support from the establishment.
“We neither sought the establishment’s support ever nor do we have intentions of doing so. We have always focused on mass mobilization and today the PTI is the only party having registered ten million workers,” he added.
Cheema also rubbished the claim of hijacking of the party by technocrats.
Owais and Jamal Khan Leghari and 30 other top politicians had joined the PTI on December 20, 2011, including 10 sitting and former parliamentarians and federal ministers such as Jahangir Khan Tareen, Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Sikandar Bosan.