Parties from across the political spectrum joined hands to stomp out the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the upcoming by-elections on 11 National Assembly seats.
On the other hand, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, staying true to his narrative of defiance, is ready to contest the polls for nine seats, the elections for which will be held on September 16.
According to leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the old formula agreed upon during previous by-elections will be applied in these polls as well, wherein the runner-up political party will have the right to field its candidate.
Even the new entrant in the coalition Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has agreed to follow the established principle and support its rival, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on its seats and vice-versa.
As per the formula, in Punjab, the election will be held in three constituencies, two of which will be contested by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and one by PPP. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), four by-elections are being held, wherein on two seats, the Awami National Party (ANP) will field its candidate while the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) will field its candidate on the other two seats.
Currently, the only exception is Sindh, where this formula has only been partially applied so far. There are a total of four seats in Sindh where by-elections are being held. In theory, PPP should only field its candidates on two seats, where its candidates were runners-up, and leave the other two to MQM-P. However, so far, PPP has only agreed to support MQM-P on just one seat.
Since the election on the seat in question will be held next month and since even known party leaders are at times unaware of the decision-making taken by party heads behind closed doors, so the chances that PPP might withdraw its candidate from the election in favor of their archrivals cannot be ruled out.
Apparently, the singular aim of defeating PTI has compelled all major political players to leave aside their political and ideological differences and coalesce forces. Thus far, PTI has managed to humiliate all the major political forces, by largely sweeping Punjab by-elections that helped it claw back its provincial government in Punjab from PML-N.
Interestingly, PTI’s ally in Punjab, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) is also allied with the coalition government in the centre, which means that the party only partially supports PTI.
These elections on 11 seats will be held on three different dates, the earliest will be held on August 21 in NA-245 Karachi. This seat got vacated after the demise of PTI’s lawmaker Aamir Liaquat Hussain.
Later, on September 11, an election will be held in NA-157 Multan, which got vacated after PTI leader Zain Qureshi resigned from his seat to contest the provincial seat PP-217 Multan.
Moreover, on September 25, elections will be held on nine seats – NA-22 Mardan, NA-24 Charsada, NA-31 Peshawar, NA-45 Kurram, NA-108 Faisalabad, NA-118 Nanakana Sahib, NA-237 Malir, NA-239 Korangi, and NA-246 Karachi South.
These seats got vacated after NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, using his authority, only accepted 11 of the 131 resignations submitted by PTI lawmakers on April 11. Two of the 11 seats were reserved seats.
In K-P, NA-22 Mardan, NA-24 Charsada, NA-31 Peshawar and NA-45 Kurram are up for grabs. NA-22 and NA-45 will be contested by JUI-F candidates while NA-31 and NA-24 will be contested by ANP candidates. Amongst the noteworthy, ANP’s Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour will contest NA-31 Peshawar.
In Punjab, NA-108 Faisalabad, NA-118 Nankana Sahib and NA-157 are up for grabs. NA-108 and NA-118 will be contested by PML-N candidates Shezra Mansab Ali and Abid Sher Ali, respectively, while PPP has also fielded Ali Musa Gillani, the son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani against former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s daughter Meher Bano Qureshi.
In Sindh, NA-237 Malir, NA-239 Korangi, NA-246 Karachi and NA-245 Karachi East are up for grabs. PPP and other parties have withdrawn their candidates from NA-245, where Dr Farooq Sattar was a runner-up. PPP has not announced any withdrawal from NA-239 Korangi, where MQM-P’s Sohail Mansoor Khawaja was the runner-up.
On the other two seats, NA-237 and NA-246, PPP has fielded its candidates. Most noteworthy in these elections is former senior MQM-P leader Sattar contesting the election from NA-245 as an independent candidate against MQM-P’s candidate Moeed Anwar.
MQM-P leader Waseem Akhtar, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that they have agreed to the formula of supporting the party with the runners-up. As per the formula, on two seats they will field their candidates while on the other two, they will support PPP runners-up.
When asked about PPP not announcing support on NA-239, he said that there was still some time left, so the party might announce withdrawing its candidature later.
Moreover, when asked about Sattar contesting elections independently, he said that Sattar, keeping in view his stature, should withdraw from the elections.
On a question about their differences with PPP on delamination, wherein they have accused the party of gerrymandering, and differences over local bodies, he said that they will continue to talk about these issues as before, as people deserve the right to know the reality. He said that when it comes to local bodies, they are drafting suggestions for implementation of the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision, while the case of delimitation was in court.
PPP’s Provincial Minister Sharjeel Inam Memoon said that they have announced support for only one seat while PPP might consider fielding its own candidates for the remaining three seats. He said that one seat was given out of goodwill. He said that they have not finalised their candidates so far.
Regarding speculations of Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari contesting the by-elections, he said that this is untrue.
PPP leader Nisar Khurro said that the decision regarding candidature will be taken by the party after scrutinising the nomination papers. When asked about leaders such as Nabeel Gabol and his son Nadir Gabool filing their nomination papers, he said that the decision is yet to be taken.
JUI-F’s Hafiz Hamd Ullah said that in K-P, they will follow the formula of PDM according to which they have fielded their candidates on just two seats, while the other two have been left for ANP.
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