ISLAMABAD: The decision of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to extend the deadline for accepting applications for party tickets for general elections has much to do with a lackluster response.
On the contrary, the PML-N claims that the date has been extended till May 31 because of a ‘huge’ number of applications received from candidates to contest elections for the national and Punjab assemblies.
A PML-N spokesman earlier on Friday claimed that “more than one thousand” applications were received from Punjab for party tickets. However, he did not specify the number of applications received for the 342-member National Assembly and the 371-member Punjab Assembly.
But sources in the ruling party do not agree to the stated reason behind extension in the deadline.
“It’s illogical to argue that since huge number of applications has arrived, the deadline has been extended. If a huge number of applicants seek tickets for the polls, it will lead to conflict within the party [but nothing such has been witnessed yet],” said a PML-N lawmaker, who has served on the party’s parliamentary board in the past.
This view was endorsed by another party legislator from Punjab who said that PML-N leadership decided in 1997 that the party would seek applications for general elections for seven to ten days at the maximum.
“Prior to the general elections in 1997, applications for party tickets were arriving in unprecedented numbers. There was a lot of internal lobbying leading to infighting and tug-of-war,” he said, adding that it was then decided that applications for the party tickers would be received for not more than a week or so, a practice which was followed in the years that followed.
On April 11, a top-level PML-N huddle decided to receive applications for the upcoming general elections from May 15 to 25, before the deadline was extended to May 31. The ruling party has fixed Rs50,000 as ticket fees for NA (general) seat, Rs100,000 for NA (reserved) seat, Rs30,000 for provincial assembly (general) seat and Rs75,000 for provincial assembly (reserved) seat.
According to PML-N sources, a poor demand for party ticket is embarrassing for party President Shehbaz Sharif and his aides as the reluctance of candidates to apply for PML-N tickets not only gives credence to the claims that powerful political candidates are preferring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), but also validates the perception that the PML-N is struggling to stay united under Shehbaz’s leadership without Nawaz Sharif at the helms.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who is a close aide of Punjab chief minister, denied that the date for accepting applications for party tickets was extended due to a slack response from candidates.
“Applicants from across the country are visiting PML-N offices to apply for party tickets which prompted us to extend the deadline,” he said.
To a query regarding the exact number of applications, he said the same would be released after May 31.
The PML-N Parliamentary Board would scrutinise the applications and shortlist candidates for interviews, he said, adding that best candidates would be finalised for general elections.
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