RAWALPINDI, May 19: It may come as a shock for many people in Rawalpindi city to learn that Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan is understood to have decided to vacate NA-56 and retain his hometown Mianwali constituency of NA-71.
The PTI chief won the seat in the garrison city after defeating PML-N candidate Hanif Abbasi.
He bagged 80,425 votes against Mr Abbasi’s 67,167 - a difference of 13,258 votes. Besides, Imran also won two seats from Peshawar and Mianwali.
A few days ago, a spokesman for the PTI had said Imran would represent NA-56 in the National Assembly and vacate Mianwali (NA-71) and Peshawar seat (NA-1).
Soon after the PTI announcement, the people of Mianwali and his family members approached Imran and expressed their reservations over his decision.
“People of Mianwali believed that Imran should not vacate his hometown seat as they wanted him to represent them in the National Assembly,” said a senior leader of the PTI requesting not to be named.
He said the PTI was also facing difficulty in Mianwali as Imran’s suitable replacement was not available there. He said local people preferred Imran’s replacement within the family or his own clan.
“There was a replacement for the PTI chief in Mianwali - his cousin Inamullah Khan Niazi - who was close to the PTI till March when he decided to leave the party and contest the elections as an independent candidate. After him, neither Imran’s sisters nor any other member of the family is interested in contesting elections,” he said.
Faced with this situation, Imran called a meeting of the party in Lahore and sought suggestions.
“The party leaders tried to convince the chairman about the ifs and buts after the vacation of Rawalpindi seat. They said the new PML-N government would resort to rigging to take back the seat but he had made his mind to vacate the seat,” he said.
He said the PTI chief was of the view that a suitable and credible candidate would be fielded in the by-election for the seat. The PML-N government’s plan will be exposed if it tried to rig the polls, he added.
When contacted, PTI information secretary Dr Shireen Mazari told Dawn that there was a debate in the party as to which two seats Imran should vacate.
“After listening to the views of the party leaders, Imran Khan made up his mind to vacate the Rawalpindi and Peshawar seats and retain the seat in his hometown of Mianwali,” she said.
To a question, she said it was earlier announced that Imran would vacate Mianwali and Peshawar seats but later the people of Mianwali approached him not to vacate his hometown seat.
When asked whether it would not be difficult for the PTI to retain NA-56, Dr Mazari said May 11 elections had made it clear that people voted for Imran Khan and his party.
“Mostly, people didn’t know the candidates and voted for the Bat, the election symbol of the PTI. And in case of the by-elections in Rawalpindi, the people will come out and will again vote for Imran’s man,” she added.
When asked about the expected candidate, she said she was not part of the discussions regarding the excepted candidate and was not in a position to say anything in this regard.