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Who Is Punjab’s ‘Unknown Governor’ Saleem Haider And Where Did He Come From?

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The appointment of Sardar Saleem Haider Khan as the Governor of Punjab by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has sparked a recurring question: who is this unknown figure, where did he come from, and why was he appointed to such an important position? Sources within the PPP state that Raja Pervaiz Ashraf played a central role in Haider’s appointment because both hail from the Rawalpindi Division.

Saleem Haider Khan, who comes from the district of Attock, has served as a federal minister and is also the president of the PPP’s Rawalpindi Division. Despite this, many PPP workers were unfamiliar with him before his appointment as governor.

Saleem Haider is the sixth governor from the Potohar region of Punjab, following General Sawar Khan, General Tikka Khan, Chaudhry Altaf Hussain, and Raja Sarwar Khan. Uniquely, even within his own party, the new governor is relatively unknown. Regarding his appointment, Haider stated that he did not lobby for the position and considers it a blessing from God and the Prophet’s family.

Haider hails from the village of Dhurnal, located about 30 kilometers from the tehsil headquarters of Fateh Jang on the Fateh Jang-Pindi Gheb Road. He was born into a farming family, his father being Sardar Jang Bahadur Khan of the Mughal Rawal community, though they were not among the major landlords of the area.

Active in the Muslim Students Federation in Rawalpindi during his student days, Saleem Haider entered practical politics in 1997. After the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) denied him a ticket, he joined the PPP and contested his first election as a district council member, defeating Sardar Zafar Iqbal. He ran for the provincial assembly in 2003 on a PPP ticket but lost to Colonel Anwar of the PML-Q.

However, following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, he won a seat in the National Assembly in 2008 and was appointed Minister of State for Defence Production. During the 16-month tenure of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government, he served as an advisor to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis.

Close associates claim that despite PPP’s limited vote bank in the area, Haider secured over 65,000 votes in the 2024 elections. They recall that during the PML-Q government in 2002, Major (Retd.) Tahir Sadiq pressured him to leave the PPP, filing false cases against him, yet he remained steadfast.

This resilience paid off when he won the National Assembly seat in 2008 and was included in the cabinet. Interestingly, he has failed to win a National Assembly seat in the last three general elections. Nonetheless, PPP leadership believes that through Saleem Haider, the party can revitalize itself in Punjab.

However, internal sources within the party suggest that bypassing all prominent candidates for governorship in favor of an unknown figure like Haider casts doubt on this revitalization effort. Furthermore, Haider’s political affiliations seem stronger with the PML-N than the PPP, given that he is married to the niece of former federal minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, with whom he has three children. His son, Sardar Faizan Haider, holds a master’s degree from the UK and is active in politics.

According to senior PPP leaders, Haider’s presence in the Governor House is a breath of fresh air for PPP workers across the province, providing them direct access to the Governor of Punjab for resolving issues. They assert that only in the PPP could an ordinary worker rise to become the governor of an important province like Punjab.

Critics, however, argue that if the PPP leadership believes that an ordinary worker like Haider can uplift the entire party, it is nothing but wishful thinking.

Note: This is the translation of Urdu piece published at Independent Urdu and Googly News.

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