Realignment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?

PTI may welcome estranged QWP back into the ruling coalition

Realignment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?
Veteran politician Aftab Sherpao’s Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) could replace the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the coalition governmentled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, after differences emerged between the two allies in the local elections, political analysts say.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak spoke to Sherpao recently and invited him to rejoin the provincial government. The QWP performed poorly in the local council elections, and may see the offer as an opportunity.

“The office-bearers of the party have shared their views in a meeting and the top leadership has the authority to take any decision in this regard,” said Sikandar Sherpao, the provincial head of the QWP. “We have always tried to raise a voice for the rights of the downtrodden and the oppressed. For that purpose, all possible steps will be taken.”

Insiders in the two parties say a tacit agreement has already been made, and the PTI would offer QWP a senior ministry, a provincial ministry, and the post of the deputy speaker. “Sikandar Sheprao would be a senior minister and Aneesa Tahirkheli, theparty’s central secretary general, would be the deputy speaker,” a source said. But instead of Bakht Baidar Khan, the otherministry would be given to Sultan Muhammad Khan, an MPA elected from the Charsadda district.
Differences between PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami deepened after a war of words over alleged rigging

He said the PTI will also give the chairmanship of the Charsadda district council to the QWP. Charsadda is the hometown of Sherpao, where party faced a humbling defeat at the hands of the Awami National Party (ANP).

Initially a member of the ruling coalition, the QWP announced leaving the alliance in November 2013 after the removal of two of its ministers from the provincial cabinet on charges of corruption, following a strong advisory sent by PTI chairman Imran Khan.

“The QWP was given two warnings about the corruption of two of their ministers but they chose to tolerate the corruption and instead showed displeasure by boycotting the provincial cabinet meetings,” Khan had said in a statement.

Meanwhile, differences between the PTI and the JI have deepened after the war of words over alleged rigging in local bodies polls.

JI leaders, including the party’s provincial chief Professor Ibrahim, have been alleging that the PTI used government machinery to rig the results at certain polling stations in the province where JI candidates were strong.

The PTI was not expecting such allegations from a coalition partner, and its leaders vented their anger through media statements. “The JI’s statements against the PTI have irritated Imran Khan, who was already unhappy with the JI’s decision not to withdraw its candidate in Karachi’s by-polls in favour of the PTI,” said a PTI MPA from Peshawar. “The disagreement in Karachi was an indication of a worsening relationship with the JI, and therefore the PTI took a solo flight in the upcoming localelections.”

Inviting the QWP to become part of the provincial government again is a message to the JI, journalists in Peshawar say. “Andjoining the government is a compulsion for the QWP, as they receive support from their voters in return for services and not because of an ideology,” said one journalist.

Despite their reservations, the JI has said it does not intend to leave the coalition. But insiders in the party say its central leadership has been thinking about leaving the provincial government and joining the federal government. “Because of a good understanding between the leadership of the two parties, the PML-N can offer a federal ministry to the JI in case it joins the ruling alliance in the center,” said a JI member.

–TFT correspondent