LAHORE - Smaller parties and independents elected in the May 11 elections are, one after the other, joining the PML-N, as a result of which the party of Mian Nawaz Sharif is growing in strength and the ‘converts’ can expect a role in the future setup, which is likely to get functional by the end of the current month.

The National People’s Party, founded by the late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi in 1986, has been merged with the PML-N by Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, the son of the late Sindhi leader who also served as caretaker prime minister.

On the other hand, the sons of the late president Farooq Leghari have also joined hands with Mr Sharif, who will be wearing the mantle of the prime minister for a third time.  Jamal Leghari and Owais Leghari met the PML-N president at his Raiwind farmhouse before announcing their decision.

Both these decisions would have been routine in other cases, but because of the nature of relationship of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Sardar Farooq Leghari with the Sharifs they are quite significant. The sons have made a departure from the course their fathers had adopted in their lifetime.

Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was among the close associates of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.  After the execution of Mr Bhutto in 1979, then chief martial law administrator and president Gen Ziaul Haq used all possible means to weaken the Pakistan People’s Party. One of them was to drive a wedge between the Bhutto family and other important party leaders.

At one stage, Gen Zia had offered the office of the prime minister to the late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi.  However, he did not accept the bait and decided to stay loyal to the Bhutto family.

Other important leaders like Abdul Hafeez Pirzada (who was a minister in the Bhutto cabinet and was affectionately called “Sohna Munda” (a handsome boy) by the PPP chairman, and Mumtaz Bhutto and some others set up Sindh Baloch Pushtoon Front (SBPF) and started demanding a confederation in Pakistan.

Maulana Kausar Niazi, who was the information minister in the Bhutto cabinet, set up Progressive People’s Party, while Muhammad Hanif Ramay founded the Pakistan Musawat Party.

Gen Zia also continued the indoctrination of the armed forces to create hatred against the Bhuttos.

Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi set up the National People’s Party in 1986 with a commitment by Gen Zia that it would be given a chance to rule the country.  This was a move to take the remaining important leaders   away from the PPP.

Leaders like Kamal Azfar, Nafees Siddiqui, Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar, S.M.Zafar, Malik Hamid sarfraz and many others joined the NPP, hoping that they would come to power in the near future.  However, adept in using various people for his own political objectives and then discarding them, Gen Zia used the NPP leaders also for his anti-PPP goals.

(Because of the frequent U-turns Gen Zia used to take after making commitments, acronym CMLA was always taken to mean “Cancel My Last Announcement”).

Mustafa Jatoi did not get an opportunity to come to power as long as Gen Zia lived. However, when Benazir Bhutto, who came to power as a result of the 1988 elections held after the death of Gen Zia, was sent packing in 1990, Jatoi was appointed as the caretaker prime minister by then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. He did his best to become the country’s elected chief executive as a result of the 1990 elections. (Hussain Haqqani, then working for Mr Jatoi did his best along with some other people to pave the way for Mr Jatoi, keeping Mian Nawaz Sharif out of power.  However, the plan flopped and Mr Sharif became the prime minister for the first time.

Benazir Bhutto, who was defeated in the 1990 polls, launched a movement against the Sharif government as as it had come to power as a result of electoral rigging. Interestingly, Mr Jatoi , who had supervised the polls as caretaker prime minister, also joined the movement.

Ms Bhutto held a news conference along with other opposition leaders at the residence of Mian Khurshid Kasuri, then a leader of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance. Mr Jatoi was sitting next to her.

The writer asked Ms Bhutto why she had not launched the movement against Mr Jatoi who was the interim prime minister when the elections were held.  Mr Jatoi’s face fell and other leaders present at the news conference could not suppress their smiles.

Jatoi and Nawaz Sharif were rivals and remained so till the last day of the Sindhi leader’s life.

In such a situation, son Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi’s decision looks rather unexpected.  Politically, however, it is always good for the tiny parties to merge themselves with the bigger ones to reduce the number of parties. It will be better if other smaller parties also follow suit.

The story of the Legharis is equally interesting.

When Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari, as president, dismissed the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1996, he stood isolated. Leghari had been the secretary general of Benazir Bhutto and she never expected that a “PPP president” would take such a drastic action against his own party’s government.

It was in such a situation that Jhang’s Begum Abida Husain played a mediatory role and brought the Sharifs closer to the then president.

However, after winning the 1997 elections and taking over as prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif developed serious differences with president Leghari.  Then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Farooq Leghari were on one side and Mr Sharif on the other.  The army was on Mr Sharif’s side. Both Leghari and Sajjad Ali Shah had to quit.

After the dismissal of the PML-N government in 1999, Farooq Leghari joined the Musharraf camp and merged his party into the PML-Q, then known as the king’s party. The Legharis enjoyed power for full five years.  However, when Gen Musharraf’s sun set, they joined the PTI, believing that in the changed situation this party would take them back to the corridors of power.

But they did not feel comfortable with the former cricket hero.  If they sought an appointment, Imran Khan kept them waiting.  This attitude was insulting for the feudal lords and they shared their feelings with some of their friends.

According to sources close to the Legharis,  the leaders from Dera Ghazi Khan said they were treated by Imran Khan as feudal  treated their tenants.

The decision of the Jatois and Legharis to join hands with the Sharifs is a positive step, although in contradiction with the thinking of their fathers. Let’s see how long lasting is the new relationship.