Senior leaders of the PUK at a meeting in Sulaimani city.
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region— Rivalling leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) met in Sulaimani on Saturday in a bid to bridge the widening gap between the two main wings of the party who have clashed over the leadership of the PUK since their charismatic founder Jalal Talabani fell ill in late 2012 following a brain stroke.
The highly publicized meeting was symbolically held at Talabani’s Dabashan residence in the idyllic outskirts of Sulaimani although the party’s 84-year-old leader, affectionately nicknamed Mam Jalal (Uncle Jalal), did not attend the reunion.
PUK’s pragmatic and once influential deputy, Barham Salih also decided to stay away from the meeting, signaling his growing discontent with the party structure and ailing leadership.
On Friday, a top member of the PUK, Azad Jundinai, who led the party’s media arm for more than a decade, resigned from the party in protest of what he described as “the monopoly of power and finances” by an “illegitimate group” within the PUK.
“What should be acknowledged is the fact that the PUK has become a fragmented political force without a recognizable identity. Even more frightening is that the PUK no longer is in reliable hands and all the observations hint to the fact that neither will it in the future rest in such reliable hands which could unify all the voices and colors of the party,” Jundiani wrote in his two-pages long farewell letter to the PUK explaining his resignation.
Jundiani’s remarks eco a spreading displeasure among the party members who have over the past years accused Mam Jalal’s immediate family and kins of controlling PUK’s vast financial assets and the party’s security forces also known as the Asayish.
The appointment of Talabani’s youngest son Quabad, a western educated technician to a top government position backed by his powerful family has been feverishly discussed in the PUK.
And also the position of Talabani’s eldest son Pavel as an antiterrorism chief and his mother Hero Ibrahim Ahmad’s growing influence in the party hierarchy have notably alienated many party veterans.
“In order to dominate the power and wealth, they controlled and monopolized the PUK, especially after Mam Jalal fell ill, and to do that, all means were made use of,” Jundiani writes in his statement referring to Talabani’s family without mentioning them by name.
In a statement after Saturday’s meeting, the politburo members of the PUK including Hero Ibrahim Ahmad and her main party rival Kosrat Rasul said that the meetings will continue in the future “in order for the PUK to maintain its struggle and influence in accordance to the Mam Jalal doctrine.”
But the meeting fell short of giving concrete reassurances to its vastly skeptical members and voters who will likely go to the polls next year while the question of party leadership is still in definite crisis.