–Surprise calls in Khushab, ‘Pindi, Attock, Chakwal upset several aspirants
–Central party leader assures review of candidates to induce ‘correct measures’
ISLAMABAD: A number of leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in north Punjab have announced to contest the 2018 general elections as independent candidates after being neglected in the initial lists for Punjab Assembly and National Assembly, Pakistan Today has learnt.
While discussing the situation, an inside source claimed that the PTI may suffer major blows across north Punjab after awarding tickets to ‘objectionable’ candidates in violation of the merit policy, which is described as the party’s foremost priority by Chairman Imran Khan.
According to the sources who wished anonymity, several party loyalists and influential ‘electables’ have revolted over ‘injustice’ of not being considered for the party tickets. They have vowed to contest the forthcoming general elections contest as independent candidates, accusing the party leadership of awarding tickets to certain blue-eyed boys who have little or no influence in their respective constituencies.
Although Imran Khan has controlled the damage in few constituencies by adjusting a few party heavyweights by changing the party’s initial list, there are some constituencies where the parliamentary board’s surprise decisions may result in an upset.
NA-94 in Khushab is such a constituency where Imran Khan’s aide and business partner Amir Kayani has used his influence to win a party ticket for novice politician Gul Asghar Khan. According to the critics, Khan is known for his close contacts with Kayani, but has no influence in his constituency which has been mainly dominated by powerful Tiwana family who have been winning elections since the 1940s. Khuda Bux Khan Tiwana, Ghulam Mohammad Tiwana have won from this constituency while contesting from the platform of various political parties and wield great influence across the district.
Khuda Bux Tiwana is said to be the man who introduced Sumera Malik and Malik Naeem Khan into politics who later became his political rivals. However, Tiwanas have maintained their influence. Malik Ihsanullah Tiwana, the youngest among Tiwana brothers, had joined the PTI in its initial days and has remained loyal to the party since then.
However, for a shock to many, PTI awarded ticket to Gul Asghar Khan who had lost his home union council in the recent local body elections. Still, Tiwana brothers had managed a face-saving for the party by winning from their constituencies.
Although Ihsanullah Tiwana has announced to follow the party’s decision, the two candidates for Punjab Assembly constituencies, Malik Hamid Mehmood Tiwana for PP-83 Khushab-II and Sardar Shuja Muhammad Khan from PP-84 Khushab-III, despite getting party tickets, have suffered a setback as they may find it difficult to win without the support of Tiwana family.
According to PTI sources, both the MPAs have arrived Islamabad to meet party leadership and they are likely to register their grievances for ignoring Tiwanas. If this ticket is not reversed and given
to Tiwanas, the PTI can lose all seats from Khushab, they added.
On the other hand, the party sources say that Sumera Malik who has got her disqualification overturned from the Supreme Court, may strike a local group with Tiwana family and steal all seats from the district as an independent group, defeating PTI and PML-N candidates altogether. Meanwhile, the PPP and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan leaders have contacted Tiwana family and offered them tickets.
Another surprise decision was made in NA-61 of Rawalpindi where initially Sheikh Rasheed had convinced Imran Khan to contest polls. However, rebellion in the PTI’s Islamabad leadership against Amir Kayani’s candidature from NA-53 of Islamabad forced Imran Khan to contest from Islamabad and he fielded Kayani from ‘Pindi.
The decision has pacified the party’s local leaders in Islamabad, sources say, but a revolt has triggered in NA-61 of Rawalpindi where party’s local influential leader Syed Shahid Gilani has decided to contest as an independent candidate.
Although the PTI has a favourable situation in Rawalpindi Cantt and Imran Khan could have easily won this constituency, Kayani’s candidature has facilitated PML-N’s Malik Abrar and his brother who could now give a tough fight in a three-way contest as Kayani and Gilani may divide PTI’s vote bank.
Moreover, Imran Khan’s decision to launch Kayani in ‘Pindi may upset the local arrangement designed by Sheikh Rasheed whose own position has been compromised due to fissures emerging within the PTI ranks, according to sources.
PTI leaders, however, say that they have made some adjustments in the award of party tickets while other constituencies would also be settled amicably. Sheikh Rasheed also has expressed his reservations over the party’s decision to ticket to Fayyazul Hassan Chohan from PP-17 of Rawalpindi while he has been influencing to award the ticket to Ch Danial in PP-11 rather than sitting MPA Arif Abbasi. PTI is yet to take a decision on PP-11.
Meanwhile, the decision to award two party tickets to Tahir Sadik – NA-55 and NA-56 – has also enraged the party workers who wanted the NA-55 ticket to be awarded to Malik Amin Aslam.
Another decision being debated is about NA-57 of Rawalpindi where Sadaqat Ali Abbasi has been given the party ticket while ignoring Murtaza Satti. Local party leaders also accuse Amir Kayani of getting his blue-eyed Sadaqat Abbasi pitched against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
However, Jahangir Tareen managed it by convincing Paracha family to adjust to PP-72 where Hassan Inam Paracha has been accommodated. Now, PTI has Hassan Inam Paracha on PP-72, Khaliqdad Parhar on PP-73, Ansar Heral on PP-74, Muneeb Sultan Cheema on PP-75, Faisal Farooq Cheema on PP-76, Ansar Majeed Niazi on PP-78, Faisal Javed Ghuman on PP-79, Ali Asghar Khan Lahri on PP-80 and Ch. Iftikhar Gondal on PP-81.
Out of these candidates, the only worry for PTI may be PP-73 where Khaliqdad Parhar could be a weak candidate. Zafar Lak may have been a better candidate but he was denied the party ticket. Lak will also contest independently after the setback.
The party leaders in Chakwal are too in disarray after witnessing a ticket being awarded to newcomer Sardar Ghulam Abbas and seat adjustment with Pervez Elahi’s PML-Q. Ghulam Abbas is said to be a local influential who wields strong influence over the constituency. However, experts say that Abbas has a checkered history vis-a-vis his relations with the PTI.
He had joined PTI in the year 2012 but part ways soon afterwards upon differences with the party over the distribution of tickets in 2013 elections. Moreover, Abbas had secured over one lac votes against Ch Tahir Iqbal of PML-N as an independent candidate. His group later gave a tough time to the PML-N in local body polls.
When contacted, a PTI leader told Pakistan Today, “In Rawalpindi, we needed an Abbasi-Satti combo to counter the PML-N in NA-57. The board went with Sadaqat Abbasi for NA and Satti has been accommodated in Punjab Assembly seat. So, we have managed a strong duo against Shahid Khaqan.”
The PTI central leader said that the party chairman was reviewing the reaction from the party cadres and corrective measure are being taken in accordance with the ground realities.
“We have made some considerable changes since the list went out. We have changed the ticket back to Bilal Ijaz Virk on NA-84. Also, a ticket has been given to Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan”.
The PTI leader said that Malik Amin Aslam has not been ignored in Attock and rather he will get party ticket in the by-poll after Maj Tahir vacates one of the two seats that he’s likely to win.
Damage also has been managed in NA-88 Sargodha (Bhera) where Paracha family had revolted against the party decision to award party ticket to Nadeem Afzal Gondal.