LAHORE - In a major setback to the PPP ahead of the July 25 elections, former Punjab chief minister Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo on Thursday jumped on the PTI’s bandwagon along with his family ending their decade-long association with the party of Bhuttos. 

Manzoor Wattoo’s son Mian Khurrum Jahangir Wattoo confirmed the development while talking to The Nation on Thursday. Asked if his father had also joined the PTI, Khurrum replied that father will also go with the children, implying thereby that elder Wattoo would eventually be siding with the PTI after the polls.

Though Mr Wattoo had formally joined the PPP in October 2012 he served as Federal Minister for Industries and Production in the cabinet of Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. In November, 2009, his portfolio was changed and he became Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas.

He was nominated party’s Punjab President in October, 2012. Since then, he has been a subject of criticism by old party guards who resented his entry into the PPP terming him an alien to the party. A strong group within the PPP remained active against him till he resigned as party’s central Punjab president in November 2015.

Also, the PTI on Thursday issued party tickets to Manzoor Wattoo’s son Mian Khurrum Jehangir Wattoo and daughter Robina Shaheen Wattoo from PP-185 and PP-186 respectively, the two provincial constituencies falling under NA-144 from where Wattoo himself is contesting as an independent candidate.

From NA-144, PPP has fielded Shehzad Noul against Manzoor Wattoo while the PML-N has pitched Moeen Wattoo against him. In 2013 elections, Moeen Wattoo had defeated Manzoor Wattoo from NA-147 (old) by a great margin of over 30,000 votes.  

From PP-185, Khurrum Wattoo would be contesting against Iftikhar Chachar of the PML-N while the PPP has not announced its candidate from this constituency. Moeen Wattoo would also be PML-N’s candidate from PPP-186 against Rubina Wattoo of the PTI. PPP is yet to issue party ticket to its candidate from this constituency. 

Khurrum Wattoo was elected member of National Assembly in 2008 after contesting a bye-election on a seat vacated by his father who had won two national seats from Okara district. He also served a five-year term as member Punjab Assembly from June 2013 to May 31, 2018.

His sister Robina Shaheen Wattoo was elected to the Lower House of Parliament on a reserved seat for women in 2002. She was elected as member Provincial Assembly of the Punjab in 2008 general elections on a general seat from Okara district. Her brother, Mr Moazzam Jahanzeb Wattoo was also a Member of Punjab Assembly during 1997-99.

Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo is an astute and successful politician. He got himself elected as Punjab chief minister twice despite being head of a minority party. Wattoo also made history in 1993 by becoming Punjab chief minister with only 18 MPAs in his pocket after leading a successful no-confidence motion against late Ghulam Haider Wyne.

Having acquired mastery in the art of political wheeling and dealings since his early days when he was merely a councillor, Wattoo had been a great trouble maker for his detractors throughout his 40-year long political career. Be it his political role in Punjab during early nineties (1993-1995) or the general elections in AJK held in 2012, he proved his worth at all critical junctures.

He remained member of National Assembly for four terms and that of Punjab Assembly for five terms. He also enjoys the distinction of being elected Speaker of Punjab Assembly for three consecutive terms.

Wattoo has a history of bitter relations with the PML-N leaders. It was during his Chief Ministership that security barriers were removed from Sharifs’ Model Town residence. Though he later apologized over the incident, but they nurtured a grudge and victimised him when Mian Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the second time.

He was then sentenced by an accountability court to more than 10 years in prison, but the high court later set aside his sentence. 

The PML-Q leaders who were then allies with the PML-N also did not like him because they suffered a lot when he was the Punjab chief minister from 1993 to 95. After having joined the PML-Q in 2002, Wattoo parted ways with Chaudhrys of Gujrat in 2007 due to differences over seat allocations and decided to run as an independent candidate in 2008 general elections. But afterwards, Wattoo reconciled with them and this cordial relationship exists even today.