ISLAMABAD, April 14: Most of the Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders are against allowing their vice chairman, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, to contest election from two constituencies in Sindh as an independent candidate, according to PTI sources.
Although Mr Qureshi at a recent press conference claimed that PTI chief Imran Khan was very much on board about his decision to file nomination papers for NA 228 and NA 230 as an independent candidate, the party has yet to make a formal announcement on the move.
Shafqat Mahmood, a PTI spokesman, only said the decision was part of a special arrangement for contesting elections in Sindh. He parried a question whether other party leaders or ticket holders would be afforded a similar generosity by the leadership.
When confronted with a similar question earlier this month in Karachi, Imran Khan failed to justify the reason for allowing Mr Qureshi to go solo in Sindh. Instead, he said it wasn’t a serious issue; after all he was vice chairman of the party. “Even if Mr Qureshi contests the election on a party ticket or independently, the seat will remain with the PTI,” Mr Khan was quoted as saying.
“A majority of us are not happy with Mr Qureshi’s decision to contest the election as an independent candidate,” said a senior party leader who is also member of the PTI’s board entrusted with the task of awarding party tickets.
“What a paradox that Mr Qureshi had announced his decision to join the PTI at a massive rally in Sindh on Nov 27 last year and now he is contesting the election from the province as an independent candidate,” said the leader.
“The move will definitely not send a good message to voters and PTI activists who are working day and night for a much-needed change in the country,” he added.
Talking to Dawn, a party member said the matter had been taken up at meetings in Islamabad in which Mr Khan preferred to keep quiet instead of defending Mr Qureshi’s decision.
The party’s media wing, which otherwise has been forthcoming in replying to journalists’ questions, is in a quandary over the matter. “Yes, we find ourselves in an awkward position when media personnel ask questions about Mr Qureshi’s decision,” the party official added.
One plausible explanation given by a PTI leader about the decision was local dynamics in the two Sindh constituencies. The PML-Functional chief, Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi (Pir Pagara), was willing to support Mr Qureshi only if he joined the former’s political alliance in Sindh against the PPP, the PTI leader said.
The PTI has announced that it will not be part of any political alliance and contest the elections alone. The party might have opted for a seat adjustment with the PML-F, but it was not possible because of the latter’s alliance with the PML-N. “This is the only explanation which Mr Qureshi can offer to his party colleagues, although the PTI has yet to clarify the mystery in so many words in the media,” the official said.
Another explanation is that because of the tough competition in NA 148, Multan, his home constituency, Mr Qureshi does not want to take any risk and has decided to contest the election from the Sindh constituencies where he has followers of his ancestors and the PML-F’s support can earn him an NA seat.