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MURREE: Due to internal rifts, PTI only nominated three candidates for chairman and vice-chairman seats in the whole of Murree Town, which consists of 15 union councils (UC).

On the other hand, the ruling PML-N has fielded a strong panel of candidates in every UC.

While PTI was expected to give PML-N a tough contest, rifts between the old guards and newcomers to the party over the award of tickets have left the party unable to field candidates in most of the UCs.

PPP failed to file nominations on its ‘arrow’ symbol in any of the 15 UCs and has instead made seat adjustments with other parties and independent candidates in three UCs.

An open conflict has emerged in PTI’s Murree chapter with former National Assembly candidate Sadaqat Abbasi, former Punjab Assembly candidate Javed Iqbal Satti, former Murree Town nazim Mohammad Khursheed Abbasi and chapter president and general secretary Waheed Abbasi on one side and a group led by former Murree Town nazim Saleem Khan on the other.

The groups, led by Sadaqat Abbasi and Sardar Saleem Khan, had their favoured choices for PTI candidates in the elections; however, the rift between them has left the party with no candidates in most of the UCs.

The ticket awarding committee in Murree Town comprised Sadaqat Abbasi, Khursheed Abbasi, Waheed Abbasi, Javed Iqbal Satti, Sardar Saleem Khan, Pahpa Shakeel Satti, Major Latasib Satti, Sohail Irfan and Zia-ur-Rehman.

Visible differences were observed on the tickets awarded in UC Potha Sharif where Sardar Saleem Khan and three other members wanted to award the party ticket to Azhar Iftikhar Abbasi, while Sadaqat Abbasi and others wanted the ticket for Irfan Abbasi.

Despite recommendations from the majority of committee members, the ticket was not awarded to Irfan Abbasi and kept open. In response, Irfan Abbasi and his supporters launched a protest and sit-in outside party chairperson Imran Khan’s home.

Sources told Dawn that five UCs, which are included in the Rawalpindi District Council, were the responsibility of Tariq Abbasi, who was appointed by Sadaqat Abbasi as the organiser for rural areas. Meanwhile, the urban UCs included in the proposed Municipal Corporation were handed over to Haroon Mehfooz, who was appointed by the Sardar Saleem Khan group.

PTI has awarded tickets in UCs Phagwari, Sehr Bagla and Angoori. In UC Phaqwari, Ali Shams Abbasi is contesting the chairman seat with Dr Pervez Abbasi as vice-chairman. In UC Sehr Bagla, Nadeem Abbasi is contesting the chairman seat with Shaukat Rasheed of JI as vice-chairman. In UC Angoori, the PTI panel is contesting on the ‘bat’ symbol.

Sadaqat Abbasi has claimed that he made all three panels in the aforementioned UCs.

When contacted, Sardar Saleem Khan said PTI is contesting in three UCs on its own tickets, has made a coalition with JI in three UCs, and is supporting independent panels in the remaining UCs.

When asked about rifts within the party, Mr Khan said he was an experienced politician and did not consider “children” his rivals in the party.

When asked about his own UC, Rawat, Mr Khan said he had made a panel with JI and denied that Sardar Sajid Rasheed, the candidate for chairman in Rawat, was a member of the PML-N.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2015