‘Corrupt’ QWP rejoins ruling coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

More than two years after making unproven corruption allegations, PTI joins hands with its former ally once again

‘Corrupt’ QWP rejoins ruling coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Twenty months after they had parted ways over the sacking of two provincial ministers for corruption, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) has once again joined hands with Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) – its former ally in the Khyber Pakhtukhwa government.

“We have entered into an alliance to serve the Pashtun nation and to safeguard the rights of Pashtuns,” QWP’s provincial chairman Sikandar Sherpao announced after signing an agreement On September 29. Analysts say his party has rejoined the coalition government on its own terms.

On November 13, 2013 two provincial ministers belonging to the QWP –  Industries, Commerce and Labor Minister Bakht Baidar Khan, and Forests and Environment Minister Ibrar Hussain – were fired by the chief minister on the orders of PTI chairman Imran Khan. “The PTI was elected on a mandate against corruption and there is zero tolerance for any form of corruption,” he had said in a statement. “The PTI cannot have as a coalition partner any party that tolerates corruption.”
Bakht Baidar Khan does not want to withdraw his defamation suit against Imran

The QWP also announced leaving the ruling alliance, taking offense at the allegations of corruption. After he was sacked, Bakht Baidar Khan had sent a legal notice to Imran Khan demanding an apology, and in December 2013, he filed a defamation suit of Rs 1 billion against him. Sikandar Sherpao had said that the action was taken to hide the poor performance of the PTI government in the province.

But the new agreement says the alliance is “strategic” and long-term, and will “further strengthen the good governance” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  The parties have agreed to form a four-member bipartisan Liaison Committee to look into disputes that may arise in future.

With the passage of time, insiders say the PTI felt the need to have the QWP back in the coalition government. It approached the QWP several times to make seat-to-seat adjustments in the local elections, but the latter did not agree. “When mistrust emerged between PTI and its other coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami during the local elections, the party realized it would need the QWP,” a source in the party said.  He said Chief Minister Pervez Khattak did not want to sack the two ministers in the first place, and played a key role in bringing them back in the coalition.

The decision may not go well with many PTI supporters. “Why were the QWP ministers accused of corruption? If they were corrupt, why has the QWP been invited to rejoin the government?” asked Irfanullah, a student of Peshawar University. He believes the move is an act of political expediency.

“Such decisions harm the credibility of our party,” says Wasim Khan, a PTI supporter from Dargai Malakand said. “Once a decision had been made, the party should have stood by it.”

PTI veteran Shaukat Yousafzai, who is a member of parliament, says his party did not accuse the QWP of corruption. “Allegations were not leveled against the QWP. We had reservations about two of its ministers. The QWP had quit the alliance because of differences over the issue,” he said. “There is no tolerance for corrupt elements in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and we have a strong Accountability Bureau which deals with corrupt people without discrimination.”

Tariq Ahmad Khan, QWP’s provincial information secretary, says his party’s central executive committee will decide whether it will nominate any ministers. A PTI leader said the QWP would be asked not to name Bakht Baidar Khan or Ibrar Hussain again, but Tariq Ahmed Khan insists if it does nominate any ministers, the QWP will do so “without dictation from outside”. The corruption charges against them have not been proven, he says. “We did not request them to let us back. They have approached us to rejoin the coalition, which shows that QWP’s stance was right.”

Shahab Khan, a supporter of QWP from Lower Dir, insists the party should ask Imran Khan for an apology before rejoining the government.

And Bakht Baidar Khan does not seem to want to withdraw his defamation suit. “The baseless corruption charges have dented my political career. I respect the decision of my party to rejoin the coalition government,” he says, “but I will not withdraw my case until the PTI chief tenders an apology.”

A Jamaat-e-Islami spokesman, Advocate Israrullah, says there are no differences or mistrust between his party and the PTI. He said Jamaat-e-Islami was neither consulted when the QWP’s ministers were sacked, nor when the party rejoined the ruling coalition.

Watchin from the sidelines, Awami National Party’s Sardar Hussain Babak says his political opponents are power hungry. “Imran Khan fired the QWP’s ministers over charges of corruption, and has invited the party back to the alliance only to save his government in the province,” he said. “He has no principles when it comes to politics.”

Tahir Ali is an Islamabad-based journalist

Email: tahirafghan@gmail.com