In a major blow to Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, veteran party leader Javed Hashmi on Saturday said he is joining Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party which, he felt, could bring about a "change" in the country.
63-year-old Hashmi, senior Vice President of PML-N who is respected as one of the most honest and principled politicians in the country, has been a stalwart of PML-N and senior party leaders were still trying to convince him not to join Imran's group.
Geo News reported that Hashmi spoke about joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf at the Multan airport from where he flew to Karachi. He is likely to formally announce his decision at a joint press conference with Imran, former cricketer-turned politician.
Before Hashmi left for Multan airport, PML-N workers blocked the road outside his house to prevent him from going. The workers chanted slogans and expressed solidarity with the party and the senior leader.
However, Hashmi managed to reach the airport to catch his flight for Karachi.
He told Geo News that had talked to Sharif on the phone and the former Premier's wife Kulsoom Nawaz in person to discuss his decision.
Hashmi said Imran's party could bring about a big change in the country. "I also long for a change, and that's exactly what I was up to now", he said, adding he never practised the "politics of/for power", rather "politics of/for people". Hashmi, a firebrand leader, said that he was not considering joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for securing a "commanding position" or a "prominent portfolio".
To a question regarding his party's reaction on his decision, a disillusioned Hashmi said that he had conveyed his reservations to the party leadership.
Local media reported that PML N leaders like Saad Rafiq and Ahsan Iqbal were still trying to convince Hashmi to remain in the party, but had so far failed to do so.
Hashmi was one of key faces of PML-N during the tenure of President Pervez Musharraf and served as main opposition leader when Sharif brothers and their families went into exile to Saudi Arabia after a secret deal with the military regime.
An elected member of National Assembly, he was sent to jail several times for his outspoken views but earned respect for not compromising on principles despite his poor health.
Of late Hashmi was said to be disgruntled with policies of PML-N, particularly after Sharif ignored him and appointed Chaudhary Nisar as main opposition leader in Parliament.
Political analysts say Hashmi's joining of Imran's party is a major blow to the PML N in the southern belt of Punjab where he commands great respect. However, they also call it a major political victory for Imran.
Hashmi's defection may cost PML-N 12 members of National Assembly, lower house of Parliament, and at least eight of Punjab Assembly, claimed sources close to Imran Khan's party.
A source close to Imran said here that all negotiations with Hashmi were conducted by Imran personally.
Imran only said that "you will hear good news tomorrow."