LAHORE, Feb 19: In by-polls for five National and two Punjab assemblies’ seats to be held on Feb 25, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) being a silent spectator is likely to lose the ground once held by its leaders.

Of the seven by-poll seats, four National and one Punjab assemblies’ seats were held by PTI leaders who vacated them to join hands with Imran Khan, chairman of the PTI. Later, as the PTI made a policy not to take part in by-polls, the former parliamentarians are in a fix either to stay away from the process or support their traditional rivals.

PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi vacated NA-148 and Javed Hashmi NA-149. In by-polls, Mr Qureshi wanted to field his son, Zain Qureshi, as independent candidate against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's son, Ali Musa Gilani. Mr Khan reportedly opposed his idea. Now, Mr Qureshi wants his supporters not to vote in by-polls. In case of low turn-out or the defeat of Mr Gilani, Mr Qureshi will win.

In NA-149, Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) Liaqut Dogar is contesting against PML-N’s Tariq Rashid, brother of former MNA Tahir Rashid. The PPP candidate is hopeful that Mr Javed Hashmi would like to see the defeat of the N’s candidate.

In NA-140, PPP’s Sardar Sarwar Dogar and independent candidate Dr Azeemuddin Lakhvi are a competition to watch. Mr Lakhvi has the backing of the PML-N after it withdrew its candidate former Kasur tehsil nazim Malik Rashid. In this constituency, PTI leaders Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali and Khursheed Kasuri can maneuver the situation for their political future. It is said Mr Ali would like to see PPP’s candidate defeated while Mr Kasuri would see Lakhvi as loser.

Also, the PTI is a silent spectator in by-poll for NA-195, a seat vacated by Jehangir Tareen. PML-F MPA Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood’s son Syed Murtaza is on forefront as he has the backing of the PML-N too.

Whether PTI leaders oblige some of the candidates in their constituencies or not the reports of infighting in their ranks are surfacing.

In Multan, Moeen Riaz Qureshi, a Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s cabinet member, had joined the PTI on the insistence of Mr Qureshi at his Ghotki public meeting. He has joined the PML-N after reportedly he was not given assurance from Mr Khan that he would get a ticket from his constituency in Multan.

PML-N’s Shahid Mahmood Bhatti who had defeated Mr Moeen had also joined the PTI after him on the motivation of Mr Javed Hashmi. “Mr Khan cannot ignore Mr Bhatti, being a winning candidate and this has led to further strained relations between Mr Qureshi and Mr Hashmi,” a source in the PTI said, adding it would be very difficult for Mr Khan in the future to retain these big shots in his party fold.

Similarly, in PP-18, PPP has fielded Malik Sameen Khan against the PML-N’s Maj (retired) Muhammad Azam. Both are interested to have the ‘indirect’ support of Mr Khurram Awan, the former seat holder, now in the PTI.

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