LAHORE: After outstanding performance in the General Elections 2018 by winning majority seats in the National, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has launched a comprehensive campaign to form governments at both the Centre and provinces.
While it may be a bit easier for the party to form its government in the Centre, it’s not going to be so easy for them in Punjab where their arch-rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has 127 seats as compared to its 122. The PML-Q has won seven seats, PPP six and the PML-Functional, Balochistan Awami Party and Pakistan Awami Raj one each.
More importantly, independents elected to the provincial assembly stand at 29. This is the figure that can help either party form government in the most coveted province Punjab.
PML-N, meanwhile, has also announced to form government in Punjab as its leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif has claimed to have the support of likeminded independent candidates.
But PTI is facing another daunting task as to who will lead its government in the province. Reportedly, the party was considering the names of Fawad Chaudhary, Mian Mahmood-ur-Rasheed and Abdul Aleem Khan for the chief minister of Punjab.
Pakistan Today talked to several party leaders regarding a nomination of chief minister of Punjab. Most of them were of the opinion that had Shah Mehmood Qureshi won his provincial seat, he could have been the frontrunner for the slot of CM. But since he has lost, there is no way he could be in the race.
The party leaders and insiders were, however, supportive of Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed being nominated as chief minister of Punjab. They say that considering he has served as the leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly in the outgoing setup, he is perfectly suited for the post. He has vast experience in politics and knows how to work with people.
He has remained loyal to the party since joining it. He has also been crucial in bringing the PML-N leaders to justice by registering cases against them in the Punjab public companies scam and other issues. Being an ideological member of the party, it would send a good message to the party’s supporters and public, they added.
It is pertinent to mention here that Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed has not been nominated in any corruption or misuse of office case.
Party insiders say that senior leadership has shown resentment on the name of Abdul Aleem Khan as he was not considered a fit candidate for this profile. They say that despite funding the party and being close to Imran Khan, Aleem Khan failed to deliver in the elections. Most of the candidates he backed for the elections lost. They claim that he backed a total of 42 candidates for both provincial and national assembly seats but only five could win their seats, which is dismal performance at best.
Moreover, sources privy to the discussions about nomination for the CM claim that since Aleem Khan is facing different charges like land grabbing and having resources beyond known sources of income. Pointing out the fact that NAB has summoned him in different cases, they claim that he would be a liability for the party instead of an asset. “Aleem also has business ties with Saad Rafique in different housing schemes,” they alleged and added that this would obviously hamper the party’s image if leadership considers him for chief minister of Punjab.
Talking about Fawad Chaudhary, party insiders were of the view that Chaudhary was famous for changing loyalties, so there would be resentment on his nomination as well.
Punjab, being the largest province with around 60 per cent of population of the country and vast resources, plays important role in the state affairs. Previous experiences show that governments by different parties at the Centre and in Punjab have not proven to be a workable formula, which is also why both PTI and PML-N are striving for a government in the province.