By Shabbir Mir
With almost three weeks to go till legislative assembly elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) lost two key ‘wickets’ in the region as its president and senior vice-president joined Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday.
Abdul Latif and Mahmoodul Hasan announced the decision at a press conference in Gilgit and vowed to support PML-N. The meeting was attended by a large number of their supporters who also joined the party, as well as local PML-N leaders including the party’s regional chief Hafizur Rehman.
Latif and Hasan had been appointed president and senior vice-president, respectively in G-B in 2011 by the then PTI organiser for G-B, Sardar Hasan.
However on Monday, Latif was critical of PTI and said at the press conference, “Anybody who has money can now become part of PTI; it is no longer a party of ideological workers.”
Latif said he was the first person to introduce PTI in G-B and claimed to have borne party expenditures from his own resources, but regretted that the central leadership did not respect his sacrifices and commitment.
“Those who have been given party tickets for the upcoming elections are those who had never been part of the party before. They joined PTI in the past one month,” Latif claimed.
He voiced his trust in the regional PML-N leadership and vowed to work as activist in his new party.
Mahmoodul Hasan voiced similar grudges against the PTI leadership. “The day I got my master’s degree from International Islamic University, I went straight to Additional General Secretary Saifullah Niazi and joined PTI,” said Hasan. “I was part of the two-month long sit-in staged by PTI in Islamabad and saw firsthand that people were fed up with PTI’s policies.”
Hasan said this time around, he felt a ‘change’ in G-B as people from various tribes had gathered for the first time under PML-N and threw their weight behind Hafeezur Rahman who is out to eliminate sectarianism.
After the two PTI leaders announced joining PML-N, nationalist leader Dr Iqbal, famous polo player Bulbul Jan, and community elders Abdul Rauf, Alif Khan and Lumberdar Ismail Khan also announced their decision to join the party.
In recent weeks, a large number of political leaders in G-B have joined PML-N. PPP’s Islamuddin, Awami National Party leader Aurangzeb Khan, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Raja Azam and various other PPP leaders, including Agha Muhammad Ali Shah Foker and Yahya Shah, have jumped ship and joined the ranks of PML-N. Even senior members of PPP’s ulema wing in Baltistan have shifted their allegiance to the Nawaz League.
Elections for the GB legislative assembly are scheduled to be held on June 8.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2015.