–Deposed PM says establishment forcing candidates to return PML-N tickets, as seven ‘electables’ from South Punjab announce to contest polls as independents
–Says PML-N’s Rana Siraj was forced by intelligence officials not to contest polls on party tickets
–Four former PML-N candidates belong to Rajanpur group led by former provincial deputy speaker Sher Ali Gorchani
LAHORE: Visibly frustrated by the recent desertions of several ticketholders of his party, deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday came out with guns blazing against the military establishment, alleging that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidates were being forced to change their loyalties to ensure his party’s defeat in the polls.
On Saturday, seven of the party’s ticketholders from South Punjab announced that they would be contesting as independent candidates, dealing a major blow to the beleaguered PML-N.
Talking to reporters outside Harley Street Clinic where his wife Kulsoom Nawaz is being kept on ventilator for the past few weeks, the PML-N supremo said, “Our election candidates are being called up and threatened. Such events will be damaging for the country’s future.”
Nawaz disclosed that his party’s candidates were being forced to join the rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
In particular, Nawaz brought up the case of Rana Muhammad Iqbal Siraj, alleging that the PP-219 Multan candidate was “slapped and threatened of dire consequences” if he contests the 2018 elections from the PML-N platform.
“I’ve talked to Rana Siraj and he told me that his godown was raided to end his association with me. He was summoned to the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] office in Multan and pressured to return the PML-N ticket,” Nawaz said, adding that Siraj was warned that they will destroy his business and victimise his wife and children.
He added, “PML-N ticket holders in Rajanpur and Sargodha have also been forced to stand as independent candidates…anyone standing by me is under threat, massive pre-poll rigging is happening all over Pakistan.”
“Our candidates are being assaulted…if this rigging persists then an uncontrollable storm will rise,” warned Nawaz.
Meanwhile, taking a hit at his former close aide Chaudhry Nisar, he mocked that “people know what the election symbol of jeep stands for”.
He asked Caretaker PM Nasirul Mulk and the chief election commissioner to take notice of the alleged threats received by the PML-N candidates.
Some PML-N candidates confided to Pakistan Today, on the condition of anonymity, that they were also invited by intelligence officials and told to contest the elections as independent candidates. These leaders claimed that they were warned to follow the directions, and there would be ‘dire consequences’ otherwise.
In a video making rounds on the social media on Saturday, Rana Siraj informed journalists about the treatment meted out to him by “men in uniform”.
CANDIDATES RETURN TICKETS IN SOUTH PUNJAB:
Four of the seven PML-N candidates, who announced to contest the polls as independents, belong to the Rajanpur ‘electables’ group under former provincial deputy speaker Sher Ali Gorchani, who is a candidate for NA-193 and PP-293.
Besides Sher Ali, his father Pervez Gorchani (PP-295), Ather Gorchani (PP-294) and Yousuf Khan Dareshak (PP-296) have returned their tickets to the party. Yousuf Khan’s brother, Dr Hafeez Dareshak, has also returned his NA-194 PML-N ticket.
All lawmakers have now been allotted the ‘jeep’ symbol to contest the general elections as independent candidates.
Former PML-N MPA Atif Mazari and his nephew Khizar Mazari will continue to contest on the PML-N ticket from PP-297 and NA-195, respectively.
Sultan Mehmood Hanjra, PML-N ticket-holder from NA-181 (Muzaffargarh) also announced that he would contest as an independent candidate, requesting the ‘jeep’ symbol to be allotted to him. Hanjra is contesting against former Punjab governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar, who has Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) ticket.
Hanjra’s nephews — Ahmed Yar (PP-279) and Qasim (PP-268) — will, however, continue to contest as PML-N candidates.
A similar situation was observed in Dera Ghazi Khan, where Shamoona Mir Badshah Qaisrani withdrew her PML-N ticket from PP-285 while Amjad Farooq Khosa also announced to contest as an independent candidate from NA-190.
Qaisrani was awarded the ‘mobile phone’ symbol for PP-285 but will contest the NA-189 election against PTI strongman Khawaja Sheraz on PML-N symbol since was not allowed to withdraw the ticket because the deadline for ticket allotment had ended by the time she submitted her request.
Meanwhile, Amjad Farooq was awarded the ‘bucket’ symbol and will contest against PTI’s Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa.
Former federal minister Awais Leghari and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif are contesting on the remaining two National Assembly seats in the district.
Earlier, PML-N dissident and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar was also allotted the ‘jeep’ symbol on his own request in all four constituencies of Rawalpindi district — NA-59, NA-63, PP-10 and PP-12 — that he is contesting from.