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RAWALPINDI: It was not the ruling PML-N’s popularity in the garrison city that made it victorious in the local government elections but PTI’s organisational weaknesses. 

In the 2013 general elections, the PML-N lost two National Assembly seats - NA-55 and NA-56 - to AML president Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and PTI chairman Imran Khan. The PTI also grabbed three seats of the provincial assembly.

But the results of the December 5 local government elections surprised many who wondered if there was a change in the voters’ thinking or something else.

However, local PTI leaders are of the view that it was not the popularity of the PML-N but their party’s organisational weakness. “The decision to award tickets in most of the localities was wrong and it created problems,” former general secretary PTI Punjab north Zahid Kazmi told Dawn.

He said the PTI leaders were divided in groups and could not cash in on the popularity of Imran Khan. He said the tickets were awarded without consulting with the central leadership.

“In the Cantonment board elections in April, leaders of the PTI Punjab visited Rawalpindi to allocate tickets to likeminded people without consulting the local chapter and the results were zero.”

He said the party should have formed a fact-finding committee to avoid such mistakes but it did not learn a lesson and made the same mistakes in the December 5 LG polls.

He said the PTI had not lost its popularity among the citizens. Had it been the case, the PTI would not have been able to hold huge public gatherings.

“Local MPAs failed to resolve the issues of party workers during the last three years and even could not open their offices in their constituencies. In Imran Khan’s constituency, the local leadership and MPAs failed to do any work and the party workers did not take any interest in the LG polls.”

He said most of the time the MPAs remained abroad instead of giving time to their constituencies. During the elections, they came back but people refused to listen to them.

However, PTI MPA Arif Abbasi, who was the election committee chairman for Rawalpindi, told Dawn that the party failed to cash in on its popularity in the garrison city due to interference of outsiders.

“The tickets were not given by the election committee. Former party organiser Fayyazul Hassan Chohan allotted the tickets to wrong persons which created groupings in the party,” he said.

“It is a wrong impression that MPAs failed to establish contacts with the citizens. Like other opposition MPAs, there is no fund for us in Punjab and the local administration never entertains our genuine complaints. The administration is working under the PML-N leaders,” he added.

On the other hand, the PTI workers were of the view that the local chapter of the party was divided in groups and in most of the areas the workers contested elections as independent candidates after the party refused them tickets.

“The ruling PML-N won the seats in the areas where the PTI was divided in groups,” said Mohammad Shoaib, an old PTI worker in Satellite Town.

PML-N former MNA Malik Shakil Awan said after the sit-in in front of Parliament House, the PTI’s agenda was exposed and people rejected it in the LG polls.

He said the PML-N was getting popularity in the garrison city. He said the PML- provincial and federal governments were delivering and the LG election results proved it.

However, some residents did not agree with both the parties. “In the LG polls, the citizens elect those who can work for them without any discrimination,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, a resident of Jamia Masjid Road.

He said opposition members would not be able to resolve public issues and people mostly elected those candidates who would bring some change in their localities. “Compared to an opposition candidate, a ruling party member will be in a better position to get civic issues resolved,” he said.

Mohammad Rafique, a resident of Raja Bazaar, said for the municipal corporation elections, people preferred to vote for their neighbours and those candidates who can help them in difficult times.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2015