PML-N embraces BAP defectors, signals U-turn

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has took a major “U-turn” as it accepted former key leaders of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) into its fold. This move follows previous criticism of BAP as an establishment-backed party and condemnation of others for seeking support from BAP.

The PML-N leadership, led by Nawaz Sharif alongside Shehbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and key party members, made a significant foray into Balochistan, strategically clinching influential defectors from BAP just ahead of the February 8 general elections.

“This is politics,” remarked former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a succinct statement to The Express Tribune.

Gillani described it as a “U-turn” given the PML-N had previously constructed a narrative against BAP, alleging its ties to the establishment, only to seemingly pivot and welcome its former members into their fold.

Reacting to PML-N’s outreach to BAP and other Balochistan parties, another PPP leader said such dynamics were inherent to politics. “Let’s see how things unfold from here on.”

In response to a question about the implications of PML-N’s engagement with MQM-P and BAP, he said, “Well, maybe the establishment would like to bring them back in power.”

PPP Senator Taj Haider said, “I am not concerned about persons. Let us discuss policies, especially the economic policies which affect our people.”

The PML-N and BAP had a bitter past as the PML-N senior vice president and chief organizer Maryam Nawaz had once lashed out at PPP for getting support from BAP’s senators to get its candidate, ex-PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, as the leader of the opposition in Senate, saying PPP was so desperate for the petty office that it accepted votes from BAP.

“It’s sad that you accepted votes from BAP which follows the commands of its ‘Baap’ (godfather),” Maryam had said while playing on words, adding PPP chose to self-deceive by saying that BAP MPs were independent with no political affiliation. “You cannot hoodwink the people,” she had said.

Prior to that, BAP’s candidate for the Senate chairman’s post, Sadiq Sanjrani, had defeated the PML-N-backed candidate despite having less number of votes on paper. However, soon everything was forgotten and the PML-N president Shehbaz nominated BAP’s Anwaarul Haq Kakar as the interim PM.

Eminent scholar Professor Dr Hassan Askari said that Sharif apparently went to Balochistan to tell people that PML-N was going to form the next government. Therefore, the professor said, “The stampede to join PML-N is because they all want to be on the bandwagon.”

Usually, the professor said, politicians change parties and loyalties after they get signals from the powerful stakeholders and that’s what is happening in Balochistan and elsewhere. “They see where the blessing is; BAP marches where the blessing is,” Professor Askari said, “and they respond positively to signals.”

One purpose of the Balochistan visit by the PML-N high-ups was to “give a demo” to the establishment that the party can work with anyone and a government can be formed without PTI chairman Imran Khan’s party, Professor Askari said, adding the other purpose was to show that PML-N has nation-wide support.

The problem started on May 9 as the powerful quarters can’t forget the attacks on civilian and military installations that challenged the invincibility of the army, he said, saying PML-N seems to have promised establishment to help restore the image.

Professor Askari noted that no political party has any ideology in Pakistan as their top priority is to keep the adversaries away and for that, they are ready to do anything. He said that all political parties have the aim of coming to power by hook or crook. “The objective is to grab power and avail the goodies that come with it,” he said.

PML-N information secretary as well as several other party leaders were approached for comments but no they didn’t respond to the text messages and calls till the filing of the story.

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