LAHORE: PTI Chairman Imran Khan has decided to contest on all 33 seats in the upcoming National Assembly by-elections set to take place on March 16, the party has announced — becoming the first person in the country’s history to run for a sizable number of seats.
In a press conference after the PTI core committee meeting in Lahore on Sunday, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: “Imran Khan will be PTI’s candidate for all constituencies that [are up for grabs] and our [ex-]MNAs, who were earlier elected for those seats will be covering candidates.”
The move will likely pile up pressure on the ruling coalition and endorse PTI’s popularity if Khan successfully wins a majority of the seats and it might dent the government’s popularity, which is already down, giving the Khan-led party an edge in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections — expected to take place in the next three months.
The embattled government is under severe criticism from the masses as inflation is at a record high and there seems no respite in sight, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme also at a stall.
The NA seats had fallen vacant earlier this month when NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf accepted the resignations of PTI lawmakers and Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rashid.
The PTI resigned en masse in April last year after the ouster of Imran Khan as the prime minister, but only 11 resignations were accepted in July. Later, as the party tried to stage a comeback to the house, the speaker began accepting their resignations — and in a couple of days, he accepted 113 more, including the 33.
In October last year, the former prime minister also set a record when he won six NA seats for the PTI in a by-election that was seen as a direct contest between the former ruling party and the current ruling coalition of the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) parties, which also grabbed two seats.
“The PTI will remain on the political ground and seek the help of the masses. When the people got a chance in July last year, despite our opponents being in government, they ensured our mandate and [made] Imran Khan victorious,” Qureshi said.
“The nation will give a clear message on March 16: the nation completely trusts in the leadership of Imran Khan and it stands with the PTI. The people will also voice their reservations against the group that’s been imposed on us,” he added.
Where will polls take place?
NA-04 Swat-III, NA-53 Islamabad-II, NA-126 Lahore-IV, NA-247 Karachi South-II, NA-17 Haripur-I, NA-54 Islamabad-III, NA-130 Lahore-VIII, NA-250 Karachi West-III, NA-18 Swabi-I, NA-57 Rawalpindi-I, NA-155 Multan-I, NA-252 Karachi West-V, NA-25 Nowshera-I, NA-59 Rawalpindi-III, NA-156 Multan-III, NA-254 Karachi Central-II, NA-26 Nowshera-II, NA-60 Rawalpindi-IV, NA-191 Dera Ghazi Khan-III, NA-256 Karachi Central-IV, NA-32 Kohat, NA-62 Rawalpindi-VI, NA-241 Korangi Karachi-III, NA-265 Quetta-II, NA-38 D.I. Khan-I, NA-63 Rawalpindi-VII, NA-242 Karachi East-I, NA-43 Khyber-I, NA-67 Jhelum-II
NA-243 Karachi East-II, NA-52 Islamabad-I, NA-97 Bhakkar-I, NA-244 Karachi East-III,
Meanwhile, voicing concerns over the “delay” in Punjab and KP elections, the PTI vice chairman said that the governors of both provinces would be defying the Constitution if they do not issue a date for the polls.
“The Constitution does not permit for an hour’s delay and we won’t stand it. The elections should be ensured within 90 days in line with the Constitution,” he said.
The former foreign minister said that the ruling coalition in the centre is “afraid” of holding elections in both provinces. “Political engineering is being done through the National Assembly by-elections.”
Majority of experts have said that there is no space in the Constitution that allows the government to delay the elections, except for emergency situations, however former Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary Kanwar Dilshad has another opinion.
Dilshad has said the authority to provide the ECP with a date for the elections lay with the governor — and both the top officials in Punjab and KP were yet to do it. He also maintained that if the governors didn’t provide a date, it would not be a violation of the Constitution.
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