LAHORE, April 11: The Pakistan People’s Party has yet to formally announce its candidates for 13 National Assembly and 25 Punjab Assembly seats as its hunt for suitable candidates continues.

In its latest attempt to snare an ‘electable’, the PPP leadership has offered Abdul Rashid Bhatti, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf dissident, ticket for NA-128. Bhatti, who was PTI Lahore secretary-general a week ago, insists he wants to contest against former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif from PP-161 on a PPP ticket.

“I have no issue. I can contest on NA-128 provided the PPP awards me ticket for PP-161. I will defeat the man (Shahbaz) who had committed atrocities against me and my supporters,” Bhatti told Dawn on Thursday.

In a bid to find a potential candidate for NA-128 against PML-N’s Afzal Khokhar and PTI’s Karamat Khokhar or Zaheer Abbas Khokhar, the PPP has recently replaced Amjad Jatt with Chaudhry Shahzad.

But, the PPP leadership is still not convinced that Shahzad would be a match for Khokhars, sources say. Shahzad’s father, former MNA Chaudhry Zulifqar, was an old Muslim Leagure. He reportedly had joined the PPP for securing NA ticket for his son, Shahazad, they add.

The PPP has fielded Col (retired) Tariq for PP-161 who lost last election to Chaudhry Ghafoor of the PML-N with a relatively small margin. Shahbaz Sharif’s nomination papers for this seat have been accepted and he has hinted at contesting from here. “If there is someone who can challenge the former chief minister it is me and the PPP should realize this. I will also help the PPP win a couple of other seats, including NA-128, but I will not withdraw from PP-161,” said Rashid Bhatti who got elected MPA twice from PPP platform in 1993 and 2002.

Bhatti said he quitted the PTI after realising that it was no different than other parties. He alleged 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.

A PPP leader engaged in finalising party candidates in Lahore told Dawn that Bhatti’s determination to contest for PP-161 might convince the party leadership to award him both tickets. “There can also be a possibility that Bhatti may contest from PP-161 independently and from NA-128 on PPP’s ticket. The negotiations between the PPP leadership and Bhatti are underway,” he said.

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