Sandhu’s joining PTI may not change Bahawalnagar scene
LAHORE, Aug 3: Although the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf is taking it as a major breakthrough for it in the Bahawalnagar district politics, PPP MNA Afzal Sandhu’s shifting of loyalties is not going to change much in the local political scene, say various political players and observers.
And what caused the long-time PPP comrade to change his heart is yet shrouded in mystery as Sandhu himself is reluctant to divulge the reasons while some opponents claim humiliation of the MNA at the hands of some party colleagues as the grievance behind the decision.
There is a consensus among representatives of all major political parties that Sandhu had lost contact with his electorate during the last four years.
PPP MPA Shaukat Basra, whose seat falls under the National Assembly constituency Sandhu won from, says against societal norms the MNA never attended any social gathering of the area and spent most of his time in Islamabad or Lahore.
Even the PTI will not award Sandhu its ticket (for poor contacts of the MNA in the area), he predicts.
Shahid Anjum, PML-Z MPA from the second provincial assembly seat in Sandhu’s constituency, endorses the opinion of Basra saying the MNA visited the areas only twice or thrice during the tenure.
He is seconded by PML-N district president Dr Akhtar Laleka’s comments that Sandhu does possess a good personality but “lacks commitment with the area”.
Basra asserts that Sandhu’s departure will not hurt the PPP rather it will strengthen the party. To support his assertion, he argues that the exit has created room for fielding a joint Araen and Jat panel from the area.
In the previous polls, the PPP had put forward only Jat candidates for the National Assembly and both the Punjab Assembly seats.
As Araen are the most influential biradari in the constituency closely followed by Jat, the PPP is likely to support Chaudhry Abdul Gafoor, PPP MNA from the adjacent seat, or any of his sons in place of Sandhu, Basra says, adding the Araen-Jat alliance will give better results in the next election.
Anjum shares the view that Sandhu’s decision will not impact the local politics but differs on the point that the PPP can take advantage from it. “PPP government’s poor performance will stop the party from benefiting through the politics of biradarism.”
Dr Laleka believes that the departure of a long-time comrade will surely hit the PPP although the PTI may not also be able to make any gains from the situation.
Arguing, he endorses PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s assertion that people want a change, but says that the change should be both at party as well as individual level.
“Talking of change but taking along spent cartridges are two conflicting things,” Dr Laleka says referring to joining of PTI by Sandhu.
He claims that some local PTI leaders will quit the party and he will break ‘the explosive news’ soon.
He, however, has his own take on concept of biradari politics in the constituency. He warns both the PML-N and the PPP that Araen and Jat comprise only 49 percent of the voters and the rest are from others biradaris led by Rajputs. He says these ‘other biradaris’ are uniting on a single platform to break the shackles of Araens and Jats and PTI is likely to exploit the situation.
Afzal Sandhu is one of the founding members of the PPP, although there had been ups and down in his relationship with the party. A state minister and full minister in PPP’s tenures, he had joined hands with late Malik Meraj Khalid, Rao Rashid and Mian Ehsan in a ‘rebellion’ against slain party chairperson Benazir Bhutto.
He, however, later mended fences with the party. But, recently, Sandhu embraced the PTI, breaking his four-decade-old relationship with the PPP although, what Basra claims, of late he had been given funds along with other parliamentarians for carrying out development projects in their respective constituencies to appease the voters.
The PPP old guard refused to reveal the reasons behind his departure when asked by journalists at the press conference he announced his joining of the PTI. “There is no use of saying about the party I have left behind.”
Basra says for his poor interaction with the constituents Sandhu knew that he stood little chances of getting the party ticket again so he decided to call it a day. Even for the 2008 polls, there was a similar situation but somehow the oldie was awarded the ticket keeping in view his long association with the party, he adds.
Anjum says because of poor PPP government performance and in view of the trend that he who won in the previous polls could not make it through in the following contest, Sandhu lost hopes for success of the party in the next elections so he decided to quit and join some other platform with better chances of win.
Amir Chaudhry, a journalist from Bahawalnagar, says the MNA had sought a big price for continuing his association with the party. According to him, Sandhu had demanded setting up of a medical college in the district, a demand PPP was unable to meet for lack of its provincial government.
But a traders leader on the request of not to be named claimed that Sandhu had been humiliated and extremely insulted in the presence of (President Asif Zardari’s sister) Feryal Talpur at a party meeting by his colleagues.
“A dejected Sandhu then started making contacts with other parties,” he said.
Basra endorsed the report saying Sandhu had met Nawaz Sharif through Senator Pervaiz Rashid but the PML-N later refused to guarantee him party ticket keeping in view his reputation in the area.
Laleka confirmed that there had been a move to get Sandhu accepted in the PML-N folds.