Addressing a rally on Tuesday in Punjab’s Renala Khurd region, Iman Khan challenged Nawaz Sharif for a debate on television.—File Photo

LAHORE: With the general election drawing nearer, the war of words between the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) is heating up as they try to woo voters by holding rallies in various cities of Punjab.

Addressing a rally on Tuesday in Punjab’s Renala Khurd region, Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician chief of PTI, ridiculed his political opponent saying Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N chief, could not beat him in a game of cricket.

“He should come on TV to have a debate with me because I know he cannot beat me in cricket,” Khan told his supporters, taunting Sharif of being afraid of facing him.

He also accused the PML-N of engaging in a secret alliance with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the outgoing regime.

Khan’s tirade against Sharif prompted an immediate reaction from his political foes.

At a press conference in Lahore, Hamza Shahbaz, son of former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the PML-N chief, accused the PTI leader of choosing to stay away from contesting against Sharif in Lahore’s NA-120.

“If Imran is running away from contesting election against Nawaz Sharif, how will he come on a TV debate to face my father,” Maryam told newsmen.

Moreover, Hamza claimed some PTI leaders were shunning the party and joining the PML-N.

PML-N spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rasheed also came down hard on the PTI leader, questioning his role in the lawyers’ movement.

“Imran should not be talking about political ethics. He is alleging that Nawaz Sharif fears facing him. Where was Imran hiding during the lawyers’ movement?” Rasheed asked.

Referring to an incident where PTI workers protested outside Khan’s residence, the PML-N spokesman said the PTI chief was perhaps the only political leader who was seeking security against his own.

Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province which is traditionally a PML-N stronghold, is slated to be the battleground between the two parties. And while the war of words between the two is not a novel phenomenon, its intensity and frequency appears to be on the rise with the coming general election fast approaching.

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