LAHORE – The ruling allies at the Centre – the PPP and the PML-Q – suffered a major blow in Punjab on Friday as a dozen of their leaders joined the PML-N ranks.

The track-changers included two MNAs of the Q League, while nine of the ten PPP defectors are Punjab Assembly members.

This is being regarded as the biggest bash meted out by the ruling party in Punjab to both its political rivals since recent defection to the PPP of PML-N leaders, MNA Saifuddin Khosa from Dera Ghazi Khan, and Raja Afzal and his two sons from Jhelum.

The disgruntled couple of the PPP, MPA Uzma Bokhari and Samiullah Khan, former MPA and former Secretary General of the PPP, called on Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and announced joining the PML-N while reposing full confidence in the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. They have also renounced the basic membership of the PPP.

The other PPP MPAs who met the chief minister included five PPP MPAs from Khanewal namely Nishat Khan Daha, Jamil Shah, Rana Babar, Abbas Zafar Hiraj, and Javed Allauddin, two from Sargodha, Kamil Shumail Gujjar and Rana Munawar Ghous, and Qaisar Iqbal Sindhu from Gujranwala.

The party sources said that PML-Q MNA Deewan Ashiq Hussain from Multan and Pir Aslam Bodla from Khanewal have also announced joining the PML-N after separately meeting with the chief minister. The new entrants in the PML-N have vowed to remain loyal to the PML-N and follow its decisions.

The joining of the said parliamentarians had been under consideration over the last two months. The ultimate announcement came the previous day.

During meeting with Uzma Bokhari and Samiullah Khan, the Punjab chief minister welcomed them in the party and said their decision speaks volumes of the increasing popularity of the PML-N. The inclusion of the PPP men, he said, will lend more strength to the PML-N and the party will command increasing confidence of the people ahead of the next elections.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister Zaeem Hussain Qadri, Mahar Ishtiaq Ahmad and Mian Muhammad Nauman were also present at the meeting.

Talking on the occasion, the CM said that the PML-N is the only party which, under the leadership of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, can bring the country out of crisis. He said that the respect and honour of the politicians who joined the party will be ensured. He said: “We will jointly serve the country and the nation.”

Ch Nisar Ali Khan said that a large number of MNAs and MPAs of the PPP want to join the PML-N. He said that the entire nation is looking forward to the general elections. “We will have to fight war for the country and the nation, and bring it out of crisis,” he added.

The change of PPP MPAs loyalty is being interpreted as a big dent to the PPP since reports are rife that more members are poised to defect once the election date is announced.

Lahore-based Uzma is daughter of former judge of the Lahore High Court, Syed Zahid Bokhari, and was for second time nominated as assembly member.

Observers say, switching over of the MPAs in bulk is an open challenge to the PPP whose top leadership has just ended its weeklong visit of the city, and Central Punjab President of the Party, Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo had expressed strong confidence of getting the PML-N leaders in the party fold, while the defections reveal the members of his own party are shaky about staying in the PPP.

MPs who joined PML-N strongly criticised the anti-people policies of PPP and said that due to wrong policies of Zardari, PPP is facing isolation. They said that PPP has committed massive corruption, and the corrupt government and the PPP will reap what it has sown. They said that the menace of corruption is the “gift” of PPP government and they have joined PML-N unconditionally.

Taking to the media, Samiullah Khan bashed the present leadership of the PPP. He said the PPP has lost the status and position it enjoyed during the time of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. The party is no more of the poor but has been hijacked by a group to secure its interests, he added.

He said that compared to the PPP performance at the federal level, the Punjab government has delivered to the masses. Sami said he got tremendous encouragement from Qamar Zaman Kaira as he (Kaira) admired Nawaz Sharif as a good politician and wanted him to learn politics from him. He said the PPP is hard to make any mark in the next elections as it is fast losing confidence of the poor masses who in fact had been the real strength of the party during the Bhuttos’ era. The present PPP has miserably failed to do any good to the masses, he said and added that the PML-N performance and public welfare projects speak volumes.

About the state of affairs in the current PPP, Umza Bokhari said the PPP, over the last five years, only delivered disappointment and despondency to the masses. “It is not the party we took oath for adherence to,” she said, adding that the PPP has added to the plight of the masses.

MPA Javed Allauddin said the PPP damaged the institutions and did nothing for the masses. He said the PPP is now a farm-house party wherein the poor workers have no say.

It may be mentioned that the defecting MPAs of the PPP hail from the South and Central Punjab where the PML-N political position will get a big boost after getting Dahas and Hirajs in its ranks. Particularly in the Khanewal district, the party will get an edge over the potential candidates like Fakhar Imam and others.

The defecting members are said to have voted for Mohsin Leghari who independently contested the Senate election last March and won against Aslam Gill, then deemed as a sure winner of the PPP for this Punjab seat of the Senate. Sources said the seed of the defection had already been sown and the PPP members announced the decision once the scenario matured.