Two senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders who won multiple seats look set to retain two coveted National Assembly (NA) seats in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to avoid losing them to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in a by-election.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan and party president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi defeated the PML-N’s incumbents on NA-56 Rawalpindi and NA-48 Islamabad respectively, and party insiders fear that the PTI’s breach of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad region would be short lived if the two big guns vacate the seats.
Khan also won NA-1 Peshawar and NA-71 Mianwali by thumping margins, while Hashmi also won NA-149 Multan.
Insiders told The Express Tribune that during a meeting of the top leadership in Lahore on Tuesday, Khan and Hashmi were told that with the PML-N set to form the national government and the provincial government in Punjab, Rawalpindi and Islamabad might slip out of their hands.
According to party sources, the local leadership of the party was of the view that it would be easy for the party to retain Mianwali and Multan in by-elections as they are Khan and Hashmi’s respective ‘home’ seats, while the falling popularity of the Awami National Party, coupled with the PTI’s rising star in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, should be enough to make NA-1 a cakewalk in the by-election there.
The local leadership urged the high up of the party to vacate their native seat instead to vacate NA-48 and NA-56.
Sources said that the PTI’s successful Punjab Assembly candidates from the region were unanimous in their opinions that Khan must keep NA-56 for the greater good of the party and the people of the constituency.
Political observers believe that the high voter turnout which led to PTI’s remarkable success in the general elections could not be maintained in a by-election, which would further compound the chances of retaining NA-48 and NA-56, especially when the PTI lacks an established candidate for the seat.
Sources said that Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who won NA-55 and is a close ally of Khan, has also urged the PTI chief to keep the seat, as vacating it would be tantamount to presenting it to the PML-N on a silver platter.
PTI Rawalpindi President Arif Abbasi, who won PP-13 Rawalpindi, said that people from PP-13 — which falls within NA-56 — along with Abbasi himself, want Khan to keep this seat, but the final decision will be taken later after consulting all stakeholders in the party.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2013.