Defections to PTI from the PPP, PML-N and PML-Q in the past couple of years have been the rage, but former PML-Q Senator Haroon Akhtar has just been appointed Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue, and this defection is a big one. Considering the friction between two parties Haroon Akhtar must see, or must have been given, quite a big incentive.

Looking at the nature of defections, the PPP and PTI have established themselves as populist parties. Defections have to do with politicians trying to get more votes, political clout and power, knowing that they are at loggerheads with the status quo of the Sharifs. PML-N power comes less from populist fandom and more from land and kinship ties. It is a party of moneyed interest, rich men, getting richer. The Sharifs, Ishaq Dar, and now Haroon Akhtar… all represent similar types of power- the power of money. Of course this is a simplified explanation, and does not mean that the Zardaris, Tareens and Qureshis are poor by any means, but the explanation subtlety points at how a jiayala is different from a patwari, and why Haroon Akhtar is to be found in this camp.

And to be honest, the Musharraf era big-wigs had to find places somewhere. The PPP has been going from weakness to weakness, and PTI and PML-N are the only real options in the Punjab. Marvi Memon, another one of Musharraf’s, is now Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) in the PML-N government. With her and Haroon Akhtar in charge of important portfolios, Riaz Pirzada as Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and Amir Muqam Adviser to the Prime Minster on Gas and Wapda, party members feel betrayed as they expected to be rewarded instead of the former PMN-Qs. But this is the PML-N. Party loyalty is strong and the Sharifs are too stubborn to let any internal tiffs derail their economic expansion.