LAHORE: Though, over a dozen big-wigs of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are in the running for the coveted slot of Punjab’s chief minister, but there is a strong chance a dark horse will occupy this position. Report suggests that prime minister in waiting Imran Khan is looking for a ‘stainless’ party member for the top slot in Punjab, The Express Tribune learnt on Wednesday.

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During a parliamentary party meeting held in the federal capital on Wednesday, Khan underscored that he would give Punjab a chief minister who has never been accused of any crime. He urged the parliamentary party to support the individual who is going to be nominated in the next couple of days.

Following parliamentary party meeting, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi told media that at least 164 MPAs-elect from Punjab attended the meeting and assured their full support to the individual nominated by Khan as Punjab chief minister.

On July 25, he said, by rejecting Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) the people of Punjab had proved that they wanted change. Qureshi said Khan told elected MNAs and MPAs to focus on ideological politics for which people of Pakistan have given mandate to the PTI.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, a senior PTI member said the party has not yet finalised any name for Punjab’s premiership, though a list of over a dozen potential candidates, backed by different party groups, has been prepared.

Earlier, he indicated, PTI Central Punjab President Abdul Aleem Khan, former Punjab Assembly opposition leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Dr Yasmin Rashid were in the race from Central Punjab besides PTI Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry, Sabtain Khan and Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfraz from Central Punjab.

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From South Punjab, he pointed out that PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi has an edge over Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, who joined the party weeks before general elections. Though both contenders have to win provincial assembly bye elections to become eligible for Punjab’s premiership, he added.

If the party requires Qureshi’s services in Islamabad or Bakhtair fails to secure the portfolio, he highlighted, some other candidates from South Punjab were also in waiting, like Sardar Husnain Bahadur Daraishk, Muhammad Mohsin Leghari and Hamid Yar Hiraj.

Answering a question, he remarked contenders from South Punjab have a stronger case because of their numerical strength. They clean swept entire districts while in Central Punjab, the party has to face embracement in several constituencies owing to the wrong selection of candidates.

Responding to another question, he said Abdul Aleem Khan has hardly any chance to become Punjab’s chief minister owing to his ongoing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiries, while Yasmin Rashid failed to win her seat from her hometown. Though Rashid made a remarkable effort, twice, the fact cannot be denied that she lost the general election. By ignoring victorious party members Punjab’s premiership cannot be given to a losing candidate, he maintained.

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Another senior PTI leader indicated that party high-ups were not agreeing on nominating a temporary chief minister, so there are strong chances that a dark horse will emerge during the next couple of days.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2018.