Who gains from SMQ’s flip flop?

Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood QureshiRumours that SMQ is preparing to jump on the PTI bandwagon have been circulating for weeks. Last week, those rumours looked like they were moving a little closer to actual facts when The Express Tribune reported that the former FM will announce his decision to join PTI on 27th November and no denial was issued. Today, it looks more and more like SMQ will indeed be taking the stage with Immy as part of the latest class of converts to PTI’s ideology. But even for a man of Qureshi’s political stature, who does his flip-flopping help? Not PTI.

First of all, let’s state the obvious. Doesn’t it strike anyone as a bit odd that PTI would even want the guy who was Foreign Minister during the Kerry-Lugar bill, Aafia Siddiqui trial and increased drone strikes? I’m not saying that Imran Khan or SMQ are right or wrong on any of these issues, but it’s certainly hard to believe that they agree. For the past three years, SMQ has been Hillary’s chamcha. Now he’s Immy’s chamcha? Even for the world of Pakistani politics where last year’s enemy is this year’s ally (in Karachi, last hour’s…), this seems a bit hard to believe. It’s obvious why Qureshi would want to jump on the PTI bandwagon – the same reason all the other has-beens are: one last attempt to stay politically relevant. But it’s hard to understand why Imran would want him.

That brings me to the second point. When Imran Khan said he was bringing ‘change’, nobody thought he meant ‘paisa’, but that seems to be what is swelling the ranks of PTI these days – leftovers from the bigger parties. SMQ certainly stands head and shoulders above the likes of Tahir Rasheed, but his statements reek of personal bitterness with Asif Zardari and not a new-found affinity for Imran Khan’s brand of politics. In this sense, it’s classic political maneuvering. SMQ felt humiliated when Zardari offered him Water & Power portfolio during the cabinet shakeup in February. Qureshi’s response was first to say, “I am not interested in water and power ministry in place of foreign affairs”, and then to launch a PR campagin saying that he was resigning in protest of the foreign policy that he had been in charge of since the past two years.

So, come 27th November, Imran Khan will have Hillary’s chamcha and Asif Zardari will have Hina Rabbani Khar – the FM that boldly stood up to the Americans instead of bowing to every one of their demands. If this is PTI’s plan to change the direction of Pakistan, it certainly is a strange way going about it.

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