After facing strong resistance within the party, the ruling PML-N on Tuesday awarded Advocate Ashraf Gujjar a ticket to contest the by-election from NA-48 instead of former Rawalpindi MNA Hanif Abbasi.
Gujjar is a former president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association and had been struggling to get a PML-N ticket since the date for the by-election was announced by the Election Commission. A few hours before the deadline for the submission of nomination papers on Tuesday, a series of comedic errors saw the ticket awarded to Gujjar.
Sources in the party told The Express Tribune that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went against his brother Shahbaz’s pick — Abbasi — because there was strong resistance from party members as Abbasi had lost the general election from his home constituency of NA-56 and was being investigated in the ephedrine scam.
Then, late on Monday, after Abbasi’s name was withdrawn, the PML-N gave a green signal to Khan, but the returning officer (RO) had other ideas, as Khan had already withdrawn his nomination papers.
On Tuesday, Khan submitted an application to the RO claiming his counsel had withdrawn his nomination papers without consulting him, the RO rejected it, saying the counsel was a responsible person.
When contacted, Khan said he would appeal against the decision before an election tribunal. He claimed that the party had awarded him the ticket, but his counsel took this decision without taking him on board.
The party then awarded the ticket to Gujjar, who was third in line.
The RO has issued a final list of candidates which includes Asad Umar from PTI, PML-N’s Gujjar and PPP’s Faisal Sakhi Butt. The JI’s Mian Aslam had already withdrawn his nomination papers after his party decided to boycott by-elections in Punjab and the capital.
The real contest is between the PML-N and PTI, which split the capital’s two seats in the general elections. Sources in the party said Gujjar was not as strong a candidate as Khan, who had secured 52,205 votes in the last general election. However, other party members said Gujjar had a significant vote bank in the legal community, which might be enough to win the capital’s seat.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.