–Sajid Ishaq Sandhu claims party’s leadership is indifferent to minority issues, Christian MPA calls former leader’s departure ‘good riddance’
–PTI spokesman refuses to comment on ‘attention seeking gimmicks’
ISLAMABAD: The central president of the Minorities Wing of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Sajid Ishaq Sandhu on Tuesday announced that he was leaving the party due to the “indifference of the senior leadership towards religious minorities in the country”, however senior leaders of the party have laughed away the excuse, calling it “a case of sour grapes”.
Addressing a press conference at a local hotel, Sandhu, who was elected as central president for PTI Minorities Wing in 2013 and was also a member of the PTI Central Executive Committee, said that he was “utterly disappointed by the approach and mindset of the senior leadership of PTI towards religious minorities in Pakistan”.
He alleged that the PTI has completely failed to safeguard the rights of the minorities in general and Christians in specific. He claimed that he had “advised” PTI Chairman Imran Khan on several occasions to take a firm stand for providing equal opportunities to minorities “but it is disappointing to see that PTI has miserably failed to even protect the rights of the minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where it has its government”.
Sandhu, who has remained largely missing from the PTI’s political scene ever since he was denied a ticket for the National Assembly in the 2013 general elections due to his ‘controversial activities’, claimed that “PTI has a parachute culture where people with money and influence jump in during times of elections and supersede all diehards who have been struggling all along.”
He was perhaps alluding to the recent defection of Hindu MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankani to the PTI, which has clearly shrunk the ground under Sandhu’s feet. It also merits a mention here that Sandhu himself joined PTI on May 12, 2012, months ahead of the 2013 general elections.
Announcing his future political strategy, Sandhu said that he had decided not to join any political party as he had lost his interest in the ‘selection system’ for minority lawmakers. He also criticised the role of non-Muslim parliamentarians, saying they were only enjoying their perks and had no concern for the minority communities.
However, sources close to Sandhu confided to Pakistan Today that he was trying to woo Senator Kamran Michael of the ruling PML-N for joining the party for the last two years but “the senator is in no mood to facilitate him because of his reputation”.
“We want election, not selection of minority representation. My Pakistan Interfaith League (PIL) will nominate Christian and other minority candidates against all political parties wherever Christians and other non-Muslims are in majority,” said Sandhu, while demanding that other parties should also award tickets to non-Muslims where they are in substantial number. He also demanded an increase in the seats of non-Muslims Pakistanis in national and provincial assemblies.
When contacted, PTI Spokesperson Fawad Chaudhary flatly refused to know anyone named Sajid Ishaq.
“Who is this Sajid Ishaq. I don’t know any. Has he left party?”. “I am not going to comment on each and every nuisance and attention grabbing gimmicks,” said Chaudhry, as he put down the phone.
However, Shunila Ruth, a Christian Member of the Punjab Assembly from the PTI, told Pakistan Today that Sandhu’s departure did not matter “as he was already out of the picture for a very long time”.
“I would call it good riddance since every party needs good workers, not opportunists. Individuals like Sandhu want to reap the benefits without moving even a finger. He could not get a ticket in the 2013 general elections due to his own dubious activities and since then he has stayed away from the party’s activities,” she said, adding that it was highly likely “a case of sour grapes” for Sandhu as he knew that he doesn’t stand a chance in the upcoming general elections as well.
“Whether I get a ticket or not, I am with PTI. Come what may,” said Ruth, who has now emerged as the strongest contender from the Christian community for the National Assembly from Punjab.
A local English paper, Express Tribune, had reported on April 12, 2013, that intelligence agencies had launched inquiries into the phenomenal increase in Sandhu’s wealth in the last 10 years.
In the uncontested report, the paper had claimed that Sandhu was allegedly involved in massive financial irregularities in the funds of his two NGOs.
“It is also being suspected that the NGOs are linked with foreign governments and are involved in dubious activities in Pakistan on their behalf,” the report claimed, adding that detailed inquiries into the matter will unmask the “rags to riches” tale of the father and son duo who have been using religion to further their own interests.