SAJID ZIA

LAHORE – As the prospects for the in-time general elections are increasing so is the number of political turncoats. With Punjab standing out among all the provinces in this respect, the ruling PML-N is the biggest recipient of opportunists.Reports and claims by leaders of different parties indicate that more political birds are waiting in wings and they would shift their flocks as soon as the election schedule is announced. Most probably, this is why all major parties’ have been delaying finalisation of their candidates in Punjab, because at least some of these ratters are considered sure poll winners.The pre-poll side switching has become this much fashionable because of the defection clause of the 18th amendment which bars any politician from changing his party after he or she has been elected to an assembly. Though a number of sitting parliamentarians did change loyalties, they did not make it public fearing disqualification under this law.Pushing aside party ideologies and manifestos, and ignoring commitments and promises made to the electorate, most of the turncoats are going by one motive – wining the elections. So they are leaping out at parties which can serve best this purpose.The majority of the turncoats, both who have already switched sides and those who are waiting for the right moment, has been loyal to the former dictator Pervez Musharraf and had acquiesced to his every act which today are believed to be the root cause of almost every problem. Interestingly, the parties they are going into had struggled against Musharraf and vowed not to accept his remnants at any cost. But election victory at any cost has made them succumb to the political expediency, despite there being no surety that these turncoats would stick to them through thick and thin in future.The bulk of the turncoats are either on the side of the PML-N or the PTI. However, from the PTI, many of them are now again switching over to the N-League or returning to their parent party PML-Q, founded under the banner of Musharraf. The Q-League has now totally banished Musharraf while PML-N, which detesting Musharraf had even demanded his trial for high treasons, has now markedly softened its stand and opened door to everyone but a few.The ongoing trend shows that traditionally influential families of Punjab will once again make a mark in the next election through their old method of promoting braderism, feudalism and dynastic politics. The PML-N has so far absorbed dozens of the PML-Q, PTI and PPP politicians as well as independent electable politicians. The leading politicians who have joined PML-N are:MNA Zahid Hamid from Narowal; Senator Tariq Azeem; ex-MNA from Khusab and niece of former PPP President Farooq Ahmad Leghari, Sumera Malik, whose other sister Ayala Malik has defected to PTI; former State Minister Shahid Akram Bhindar and his son Waheed Akram Bhindar, from Gujranwala; former Provincial Minister Arshad Khan Lodhi from Sahiwal; Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar from Gujranwala; former Federal Minister Riaz Hussain Perzada and former MPA Tahir Bashir Cheema, from Bahawalpur; former MNA from Bahawalpur Tasneem Nawaz Gardezi; former Minister of State Major (r) Tahir Iqbal; former Minister Rana Shamshad Ahmad Khan of Muridke; former Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhary Muhammad Afzal Sahi and his brother and former MNA Lt-Col (r) Ghulam Sarwar, from Faisalabad; and former MNA from Faisalabad Ch Safdar Shakir.This list of those joining the PML-N cadre also includes: Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qayyum; former Chairman Pakistan Steel Mills and former Federal Minsiter Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Majid Malik from Chakwal; Ghulam Murtaza Maitla from Multan; former MNA and a close relative of Chaudhrys of Gujrat, Ch Mubashir Hussain; former PML-Q MNA from Khanewal Malik Ghulam Murtaza Maila; wife of late PML-Q federal minister Abdul Sattar Lalika, Shahida Sattar Lalika and her son; and former PML-Q MNA from Bahawalnagar Syed Asghar Shah.PML-Q is the major loser so far. First a big chunk of the its politicians deserted it under the banner of Likeminded in the centre and Forward Bloc at the Punjab level, and now a number of others are reported to be poised for quitting the party. The disgruntled of the Q-League are annoyed over the party policies and electoral alliance with the PPP which has diminished the chance of its retaining even existing number of seats in the next elections.Led by Hamid Nasir Chatta, Saleem Saifullah, Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Humayun Akhtar Khan and Kashmala Tariq, the PML-Likeminded group has entered into an electoral alliance with the PML-N, while Ata Maneka is leading a Forward Bloc of around 40 MPA who have joined hands with N-League in the Punjab.The eminent of the PPP who have joined the PML-N include ex-Federal Minister and brother of Federal Minister Ch Ahmad Mukhtar, Ch Ahmad Saeed; brothers of Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gull, Nawabzada Mazharul Haq and Nawabzada Muzaffarul Haq, from Gujrat; former provincial minister Rana Ikram Rabbani from Okara; former minister from Multan Malik Ishaq Bucha; and former Senator Envar Beg.The PML-Q leaders including former MNA Sardar Jamil Khan, former MPA Ilyas Gujjar, former MNA Shahid Manzoor Gill, Ghulam Raza Maneka, and Farooq Maneka who had switched over to the PTI, have come back to the parent party on the assurance of being given tickets. Another two senior leaders of PTI and former MPAs from Bahawalpur Ch Riaz Ahmad and Ch Ahmad Nawaz have joined PML-Q. Former lawmaker from Pakpattan Ahmad Reza Maneka, after quitting the PTI, met Nawaz Sharif and announced to join the PML-N but the next day he met the Chaudhrys and joined the PML-Q. Recently, Salman Mohal of PML-N has also joined the Q-League.Among dozens of politicians of different political ranks, the PTI also got many big names into its folds, including former senior PML-N leader Makhdom Javed Hashmi and former PPP Federal Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi from Multan; former PML-F MNA Jahangir Khan Tareen from Rahim Yar Khan; former PML-Q MNA Awais Khana Legahari and former PML-Q Senator Jamal Khan Leghari from Dera Ghazi Khan; Shafqat Mahoood; former PPP federal minister Afzal Sindhu from Bahawalnagar; former PML-Q MNA Sikander Bosan from Multan; and former PML-Q state minister Ishaq Khaqwani and former PML-N MPA Shahid Mahmood from Multan.The list of those joining the PTI also includes: former PML-N MNA Inamullah Khan Niazi from Mianwali; former PML-Q minister from Sialkot Ajmal Cheema and his brother and former District Nazim Sialkot Akmal Cheema; former PML-N MPA Hafeez Khan; former PML-Q District Nazim Narowal Javed Safdar Kahloon and his spouse and former minster Riffat Javed; former provincial minister of PML-Q Aleem Khan; former PML-Q MNA Mazhar Qureshi from Sargodha; PPP’s Ghayasuddin Janbaz; Dr Israr Shah of PPP from Rawalpind; former PPP (Patriot) MNA Zaheer Abbas Khokar; former PML-Q MPA Mansha Sindhu; Sardar Ghulam Abbas; Faiz Tamman; and Col (r) Sultan Surkhru Awan from Chakwal.Some other politicians who joined PTI are: PPP MPA from Faisalabad Dr Asad Mozzam; former nazim from Rawalpindi Raja Tariq Kiyani; Malik Umer Aslam Awan, who is a former MNA and nephew of Malik Naeem Awan, from Khushab; Former minister from Attock Malik Amin Aslam; former PPP Lahore president Ch Asghar Gujjar; former MPA Abdul Rasheed Bhatti; former PML-Q MNA Sardar Kamil Umar from Lahore; and PPP MPA from Attock Malik Khurram Malik.