ISLAMABAD: Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan has taken another U-turn by voting ‘yes’ for the Qaumi Wattan Party some two years after the infamous clash over corruption that turned the allies into foes in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The deal was clinched on Tuesday as the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf promised two ministers and two special assistants jobs to the QWP in the provincial government. Senior PTI leader Jehangir Tareen and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak with other delegates met QWP chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, his son Sikandar Sherpao and colleagues to formalise a written agreement.

Sikandar Sherpao will be given the portfolio of a senior minister while the other cabinet member will be Anisa Zeb Tahirkherli. They are expected to look after the irrigation and mines and mineral ministries respectively. Abdul Karim Khan of Tordher and Arshad Umarzai are in the queue to be appointed as special assistants in the government. To avoid conflict in the future, the partners have agreed to form a liaison committee – comprising two members from each party – to take up any issues that surface from time to time.

The committee, to be named within the next 15 days, will meet at least once a month and try to resolve disputes between the allies. If the disagreement persists, the case will be forwarded to the Chief Minister and the QWP parliamentary leader. Past memories are not pleasant for the two. In November 2013, QWP’s Malik Ibrar Hussain Khan and Bakht Bedar were sacked by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on the directions of Imran Khan for alleged corruption.

Later, the QWP parted ways with the coalition in protest. A war of words followed taking the former allies virtually to the point of no return. The QWP has been challenging the PTI to prove the allegations ever since. Albeit this year, the PTI again approached the QWP to rejoin the government and after a series of meetings, the two parties agreed on a power-sharing formula. PTI insiders told The Nation that Imran Khan was reluctant to re-accept the QWP as a coalition partner but some recent misunderstandings with Jamaat-e-Islami – the other ally – forced him to change his mind. 

“Although we are moving along well with the JI, some past misunderstandings taught us not to bank too much on them. Imran Khan had this in mind when he nodded ‘yes’ to the QWP,” said a close aide of the PTI chief.

Media reports suggested the JI was not too comfortable with the idea of reintroducing the QWP as a coalition partner. Bakht Bedar had also accused the JI of playing a role in his sacking. The PTI has 56 seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, making it the single largest party. JI has 7 members, 3 of them cabinet members and QWP has 10 members in the house of 124.

Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao had earlier told The Nation that the two parties will continue this alliance into the 2018 general elections. “Since we are returning to the PTI-led government (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), we hope we will continue the alliance during the next general elections,” he had said. Ibrar Hussain Khan, who was sacked as minister by CM Khattak in 2013, said, the QWP leadership had signed a written agreement this time with the PTI to make sure “they do not dismiss us like in the past.”

“This time a proper agreement has been reached. I am sure Aftab Sherpao has received guarantees before taking the decision to join the government,” Khan said. The QWP lawmaker said, the two parties will have to bury the previous confrontation to serve the people. “I know it is hard to sit together after all that but we have to take decisions for the wellbeing of the people. You can help people only when you are in power,” he emphasised.

Another QWP lawmaker said, the party leadership had swallowed a bitter pill by rejoining hands with the PTI. “It will take time to re-adjust with them but anything is possible in politics. We have no personal rivalries,” he maintained. He opined the onus to keep the coalition intact will be on the PTI as they will not be able to justify another fallout. A senior PTI leader said, the new partnership will be stronger and go into the next general elections. “We have buried the past. We will not repeat the mistakes. Imran Khan and Aftab Sherpao have discussed everything and vowed to work for the welfare of the people,” he contended.

Asked about Imran Khan’s reluctance to share power with the QWP, he said, “The parties have agreed that the sacked ministers will not be re-inducted. Imran Khan had the same point. There is no confusion now.”