RAWALPINDI: The time has come for the arch rivals PTI and the PML-N to disclose their well-guarded secret - the names of their party-ticket holders in the local government elections on December 5.

They had been secretive because they feared early disclosure would expose their candidates to ‘political pressures’ from the rival camp.

But tomorrow, November 6, is the last date for the political parties to identify their ticket holders to the returning officers and both have to announce who will be fighting under their flag.

“We wanted to know who the ruling PML-N is fielding,” PTI MPA Arif Abbasi from the city, told Dawn. “We also will announce our party ticket on the last date as they do.”

A local PML-N leader said that his party had finalized the names of party candidates but would become known when they are communicated to the returning officers on the last day.

Early disclosure would expose candidate’s to ‘political pressures’, parties’ sources claim

“Since the PML-N is a big party, we faced the problem of choosing our candidates. The party formed several boards to put our house in order and make intelligent choices,” he told Dawn.

Despite the advantage of incumbency, the boards had to persuade PML-N aspirants who had filed nomination papers to withdraw them in favour of the candidates chosen by the party leadership.

“In local politics, the aspirants denied party tickets often threaten to switch to the rival camp,” he said. “It was to forestall this kind of blackmailing that the PML-N decided to keep the identity of its candidates secret till the last day.”

According to him, candidates chosen by the PML-N to contest in over 30 union councils were informed quietly that they have been awarded the party ticket. But dissidents posed problems in some union councils falling in the NA-55 and PP-13 constituencies.

“For two months we watched PTI’s tricks and moves which posed a problem for us to pick up suitable PML-N candidates. It was a situation where PTI could have roped in the angry workers of PML-N in the last hours,” he said.

Former PML-N MNA Malik Shakil Awan, who is in-charge of party affairs in NA-55 area, confirmed that the party’s ticket holders would be revealed “to the returning officers on the last day”.

According to Mr Awan, it was a decision taken by the local PML-N leaders and senior workers unanimously to avoid the chance of any candidate slipping away before election symbols are allotted and to avoid a mess within the party.

“We will enter the election arena in a better position,” he said.

Similar reasons were offered by the PTI for not announcing the party tickets in advance.

PTI gave the responsibility of selecting its candidates in the 27 union councils falling in NA-55 area to a three-member board comprising Awami Muslim League President Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and the PTI MPAs Rashid Hafeez and Ijaz Khan Jazi. They picked candidates for all the union councils except three, also decided to support PPP candidates in more than 10 union councils.

In the 19 union councils in NA-56, the PTI formed a fresh board on November 1 to award tickets after dissolving the one led by PTI Information Secretary Naeemul Haq. PTI MPAs Arif Abbasi and Rashid Hafeez, Ch. Adnan, Faizul Hasan Chohan, Asif Ayaz, Shams Lodhi and Brigadier (R) Tipu are members of the new board.

“On November 3, in Union Council 26, PTI aspirants Ibrar Awan and Ch. Aslam withdrew their nomination papers and as a result PML-N’s Malik Nisar and Raja Naseer were elected councilors unopposed. It was real embarrassment for us and we wanted to keep the candidates secret to avoid such things,” said Mr. Abbasi.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2015

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