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Pakistan: Senior leader quits Nawaz's party to join PPP

January 21, 2013 14:38 IST

Giving a boost to the Pakistan's Ruling Party in the politically crucial province of Punjab ahead of this year's general election, two top leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz and Pakistan Muslim League - F, including Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood, have joined the party along with their lawmaker sons.

Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, the country's main opposition, suffered a setback with the loss of Raja Afzal from Jehlum district.

Afzal and his sons -- Raja Asad and Raja Safdar, both members of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament -- met top PPP leaders in Karachi over the weekend and announced their decision to join the party.

Their entry into the PPP will help the party make inroads in central Punjab, which has traditionally been a stronghold of the PML-N.

The PPP was further strengthened in southern Punjab when governor Mehmood and his two sons joined the party after quitting the PML-F on Sunday.

One of Mehmood's sons, Makhdoom Mustafa Mehmood, is a member of the National Assembly, while the other, Makhdoom Murtaza Mehmood, is a member of the Punjab Assembly.

Mehmood, a spiritual leader, and his family have great influence in all six National Assembly and 13 provincial assembly seats in Rahim Yar Khan District.

Analysts said the entry of these political families into the PPP showed that it is still one of the main choices for the main political players despite the poor performance of the PPP-led government at the Centre.

The government is set to complete its five-year term in March. Elections are expected to be held by May.

Since cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's popularity graph has declined in Punjab in recent months, the PML-N and PPP seem to be the main attraction for politicians who are considering a change in loyalties ahead of the polls, an analyst said.

Raja Afzal had developed differences with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif after the latter reportedly accommodated his political opponents in key positions.

On the other hand, Governor Mehmood is a cousin of former premier Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Mehmood's sons and other family members had to make a choice between the PML-N and the PPP after the chief of the PML-F expressed annoyance over Mehmood's decision to become governor.

PML-N spokesman Pervaiz Rashid told PTI that many PPP and PML-Q lawmakers were ready to join the PML-N after an interim administration was installed to oversee the polls.

"Let me tell you that from our side, hardly a few will switch loyalties before the election but a large number of 'electables' from other parties, including the Tehrik-e-Insaf, are in contact with us and are willing to join us," Rashid said.

M Zulqernain
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