LAHORE, April 6: Internal rifts in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf are growing as more and more complaints about ‘nepotism’ and ‘violation of merit’ in nominations for party tickets are being reported, causing desertions, the latest being that of party’s Lahore secretary general Abdul Rashid Bhatti on Saturday.

The party has so far failed to formally launch election campaign in constituencies as meeting presided over by its chief Imran Khan are being organised to develop a systems for a mass contact initiative.

A major revolt was witnessed by the PTI a couple of days ago in Lahore when several of its local leaders, including party’s Lahore president, had announced they would be returning the proposed party tickets ‘for ignoring elected leaders’.

Earlier, ex-foreign minister Sardar Asif Ahmad Ali had quitted the PTI after he was denied the party ticket from Kasur.

The PTI Punjab office is also busy handling complaints and objections to the lists of party ticket aspirants finalised by its central parliamentary board.

Talking to Dawn on Saturday, Bhatti said he quitted the PTI after realising that it was no more different than other parties.

He alleged that the PTI parliamentary board members, who were defeated in intra-party elections, were accepting bribes and violating merit in finalising nominations for party tickets.

Bhatti was denied party ticket during short listing of candidates for different national and provincial assemblies’ seats in Lahore.

He said the party had been claiming that elected representatives, even those elected at union council level, would have a say in nominating candidates for next general elections. However, practically, he said, “even PTI Lahore district’s elected secretary general was neither selected nor even consulted in selection of candidates for national and provincial assembly seats of the city”.

The PTI was defrauding 80,000 elected members all over the country by not honouring their recommendations, he alleged.

“I did try to meet party chief Imran Khan and explain to him ground realities but he did not accord me the opportunity,” Bhatti claimed. “Now, I have decided not to be a part of the party’s fraud but bring forth its internal contradictions,” he said.

It is learnt there was also resentment within the party over change of constituencies of candidates who were denied opportunity to contest election from the areas where they had been working for quite some time.

Dr Yasmin Rashid is one such candidate, who had been working in NA-127 for the last two-and-a-half-years, but was awarded ticket for NA-120. Dr Yasmin had organised the first and the largest public meeting with minorities in NA-127, which was addressed by Imran Khan.

PTI Lahore president Abdul Aleem Khan has been short-listed for party ticket in NA-127, while Dr Yasmin has been pitched against PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in NA-120. She has also been denied party ticket for PP-154.

When contacted, Dr Yasmin was confident of her position against Nawaz Sharif in the constituency and vowed to turn the tables in NA-120 that was eight times bigger than NA-127.

Meanwhile, a large number of candidates who were not short-listed for party ticket met PTI Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry at party’s Punjab office and submitted their complaints to him.

Various complainants alleged violation of merit. In one case pertaining to a National Assembly constituency of Wazirabad, Ejaz Chaudhry admitted that the candidate was short-listed in violation of merit.

Chaudhry told Dawn there were about a dozen such cases where merit had ‘seemingly’ been ignored. He also said candidates from at least three southern districts’ were not finalised yet. He said the central parliamentary board’s final meeting was expected on Monday (tomorrow).

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