Zaeem Qadri went off yesterday and he went off with a bang. At a chaotic looking presser held in Township Lahore, the now former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart sounded off against the party’s leadership in Punjab – namely former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz.
There was some serious gusto as Qadri became the second high profile member of the league to quit in the past few days, even as the elections loom barely a month away. What was different about this one is that there were no visible cracks in Zaeem Qadri’s loyalties until now, while Chaudhry Nisar has been seesawing here and there ever since he was snubbed as the possible replacement for Nawaz after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court.
Another distinct feature was that Qadri conducted the presser with a capricious machismo – starting off with verses from scripture and following that with verses from poets before engaging in his outraged spiel where he essentially told the League to “come at me bro.”
Unlike Nisar, who has used his ‘back pain’ as an excuse to cover his petty, spinelessness time and time again in the past five years, Qadri chose to go the route of trying to make himself out to be a fearless, principled rebel standing up alone to a degenerating establishment.
But there is only so much political posturing that he can do. Qadri can try to portray himself as whatever he wants, but there seemed a part of him that didn’t really want a clean break when he said that he has been associated with the party since 1999 and that the PML-N would always remain in his blood.
He was also careful about not particularly addressing Nawaz, choosing instead to tell Shehbaz and his political heir Hamza that he would not ‘lick their boots’ and that Lahore was not their property.
Qadri has been a staunch Noon Leaguer for some time now, having served as a provincial minister and an adviser to the chief minister, as well as Punjab government’s spokesman. He has also served at important positions within the PML-N’s party structure.
Could he come back into the fold? Stranger things have happened and people that did much worse have been reintegrated. And if he is ever welcomed back to the League, what will that mean for relations between the Sharifs?
The PTI, on the other hand, has already swooped in and made an offer. With party workers camped outside Bani Gala, they still don’t seem particularly perturbed about accepting more turncoats, and the open invitation to Chaudhry Nisar is still standing.
After all, the PTI has claimed they will win 90 seats from Punjab in the NA this year, and Qadri has already declared his intent to contest independently from NA 133 Lahore. Perhaps they’re just hoping that 89 other electables will be willing to jump ship. That might just get them somewhere around the halfway mark of their goal.
There was some serious confusion as the ECP claimed that they had never asked for the deployment of 350,000 troops for the general elections. The ‘sources’ claiming that the ECP had made the request had even outlined the procedure by which the armed forces would manage polling at 85,000 stations. Just goes to show how easy it is to say something and make the whole world believe it.