Qubad Talabani, a PUK member and Kurdistan Region's Deputy Prime Minister, attends a memorial held for his late father Jalal Talabani, forner Iraqi President, in Sulaimani in November 2017. File photo: Rudaw/Sartip Othman
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – An ordinary congress that must be held no later than January is necessary to break foreign and domestic threats that are targeting the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and may have direct results on the very survival of the Kurdistan Region, said Qubad Talabani, the younger son of the party’s late founder Jalal Talabani.
Qubad Talabani is also deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region.
His party is facing various problems. Its founder Jalal Talabani passed away in October and its acting head, Kosrat Rasul, was flown to Germany this month to receive emergency medical treatment. And the PUK stronghold of Kirkuk, dubbed the ‘Jerusalem of Kurdistan’ by Jalal Talabani, was lost to Iraqi forces.
“It is no secret that our PUK is going through a hard time. It faces threats from within the party and from foreign and domestic bodies,” Qubad Talabani said in a published statement. PUK members are taking a good look at the party – criticizing it and looking for some light, he said.
The PUK is also receiving “enormous criticism” from the people of Kurdistan in general, including those in the disputed areas, he said.
Some PUK elements, especially within Qubad Talabani’s family, have been accused of handing over Kirkuk to the Iraqi forces, something they deny. Qubad Talabani himself has not been a target for this charge.
Qubad Talabani said these problems arose after the illness and death of Jalal Talabani. Without him, both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region are driving in a dangerous direction, the son warned.
The PUK, one of the two main Kurdistan Region parties, is essential for the Region, he said. “Without a cohesive, strong and united PUK, Kurdistan may not be able to survive,” the current threats.
Some suggestions from party members, including forming an interim leadership, are simply “whitewashing” and not seriously addressing the problems, he said.
The PUK leadership voted to elect an 11-member body to run the party’s affairs until it can hold a congress early next year. The decision has not yet been made final.
Talabani said for the PUK to remain cohesive and strong and to ensure that “the territorial integrity of Kurdistan is protected,” the PUK must hold its ordinary congress and give new people a chance to come forward with modern ideas and strengthen the party.
The congress must not be a chance to take revenge and conduct a “coup d'etat”, the young leader said.
He cautioned against rushing decisions heading into the congress, saying that the party that would emerge from such a harried process would be weakened, catering to the interests of some individuals only.
“In this congress, we should ask ourselves, what is the PUK for?” Talabani asked.
He said party members should question why they choose to join the PUK. Is it because of its glorious past, or because of its “vision for the future”?
His answer is to respect past achievements but strive for a brighter future, and “reintroduce the PUK to the people of Kurdistan by committing to its national principles,” coupled with presenting a vision capable of facing today’s challenges.
With these points in mind, he called on all PUK members to “pressure” the party to convene its congress by the end of January.
He concluded that the PUK should continue to believe its slogans that also includes “the right to self-determination.”
The PUK, Kurdistan’s third-largest party in terms of number of seats in the parliament, has strong influence over the Peshmerga and security forces in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja.