LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shafqat Mahmood says rising awareness about corruption and corrupt has convinced masses to reject the PML-N and PPP which have been taking turns running the government and amassing wealth for their families for the past three decades.

“People have realised that the ruling PML-N did not use state resources judiciously and instead watched their personal interests in mega projects and that too in Lahore,” he told Dawn on Thursday.

“The living standards of the general public did not improve.”

He said the PML-N government spent some 66 per cent of the Punjab’s budget on Lahore but still people were running from pillar to post to get clean drinking water and decent treatment facilities in hospitals.

About the prospects of the PTI to form the government in 2018, he said as politicians were joining their party in droves, after defecting from other parties, particularly the PML-N, the PTI would be in a position to form its government and implement its slogan of ‘One Pakistan’ for the elite and the poor.

In 2013, the party won just eight NA seats in Punjab. This time, he said, the PTI’s share would be at least 90 seats in Punjab because of party’s massive popularity and ample number of electable candidates in its fold.

He says the party did some experiments in 2013 elections by pitching 85 per cent of the new candidates, while 35 per cent of the tickets were given to youth. “In some cases, these experiments worked,” he said.

While saying the PTI is now in a strong position with far better pool of candidates, Mr Mahmood, however, agreed that the aspirants for party tickets were becoming apprehensive as there was no final decision about party tickets.

Acknowledging that he resigned from party central information secretary position in February to give time to his constituency, he said the party did want to award tickets to candidates so that they could well manage their constituencies. But, he said, the problem was that the process of delimitation completed early this month. “How can party award tickets, when it does not know what shapes constituencies will take place?” he said.

Asked party chairman Imran Khan was now looking for electable candidates instead of honouring the old guards and party ideologists, Mr Mahmood said the party was now assessing the ground realities and wanted to field candidates, who could win elections.

The party will now immediately decide about candidates for almost 80 per cent of the constituencies, while it can wait to find best candidates for the remaining constituencies. “Election campaign spread over six to eight weeks will be enough,” he said.

Asked whether the PTI expects defections within its ranks since it will be focusing more on “electable candidates”, Mr Mahmood said the party was constituting re-conciliation committees to hear grievances and explain them the ground realities about the ticket decision.

About the political scene in Lahore, the PTI former information secretary said there would be a dramatic change in Lahore and we would win majority of 14 NA seats in Lahore.

He, however, parried a question about the possible candidate for Punjab’s chief minister – in case the party forms the government in Punjab.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018

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