ISLAMABAD: The ‘tsunami’ of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, it appears, is hurting his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) more than anybody else.

In what could be a blow for the party’s rising popularity, PTI’s newly appointed Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi has developed serious differences with Imran over his ‘unilateral decision’ to boycott last month’s by-elections.

Qureshi’s home constituency Multan, his only apparent political asset, was taken away by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son. The former foreign minister fears the future elections would now be an uphill task for him.

The premier’s son, Ali Musa Gilani, literally had a walkover in the by-polls for the National Assembly by beating a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate with a margin of over 50,000 votes in the constituency.

Sources close to both Imran and Qureshi told The Express Tribuneon Monday that both leaders had exchanged harsh words over what Qureshi said was a ‘unilateral decision’ made without consulting other party members.

Some PTI leaders say Qureshi is angry at Imran for letting Gillani’s son win the seat without a contest. They say the relationship between him and the PTI chief were so tense that Qureshi was contemplating parting ways and contesting the upcoming general elections as an independent candidate.

A member of his family, wishing not to be named, said Qureshi sometimes regrets his decision of choosing the PTI over PML-N. PTI officials said the former minister, who had considerable experience of parliamentary and constituency politics, had been trying to convince Imran not to stay away from the polls.

“You need to be in the system to change it,” sources quoted Qureshi as telling Imran, who has been calling himself a harbinger of change.

However, they said Imran was adamant on his decision of boycotting the by-elections.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.