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RAWALPINDI: With the announncement of a date for the general elections by President Mamnoon Hussain, political parties have started preparations to field their candidates. But Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is not fielding any prominent personality in the city areas of Rawalpindi.

A senior PPP leader told Dawn that this would give Awami Muslim League (AML) President Sheikh Rashid Ahmed another chance to win the two seats from the areas.

“The party has prominent personalities in the city areas and has also the option of bringing some bigwigs from Sindh and inner Punjab but it is not taking any interest. In the last elections, the PPP also did not field any prominent personality after reaching an understanding with Sheikh Rashid,” he said.

“There were reports that PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto would visit Lal Haveli to support Sheikh Rashid but the party workers opposed the idea after which the plan was dropped. The workers always oppose Sheikh Rashid as he ditched the party in the 1985 general elections and joined Mohammad Khan Junejo’s PML.”

The party is not fielding any strong candidate who could challenge the AML chief

On the other hand, he said, the PPP had a long list of prominent personalities for the provincial assembly seats and the president of its city chapter Babar Jadoon was one of them.

Dawn talked to a number of PPP local leaders who had contested the previous elections. However, almost all of them showed disinterest in contesting the upcoming elections apparently leaving the field open to the PPP opponents.

There’s a host of reasons why the local PPP leaders are not contesting the elections. These include the party’s poor performance, especially in Rawalpindi, during its 2008-2013 rule.

Amir Fida Paracha, who was a candidate in 2008 and lost to Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of the PML-N, is also not interested in the elections. He also refused to contest the elections in 2013 after which the party had to launch Chaudhry Iftikhar who managed to get 6,216 votes only. This time, Mr Iftikhar is also not interested in the elections.

Zammrud Khan, who won NA-54 in 2002 and lost the seat in 2008, is also not interested in the elections. “Zammrud Khan has not been active in the constituency for 10 years and the party failed to make his replacement in the area,” a senior PPP leader told Dawn.

He said in the local government elections in the cantonments, Mr Khan had supported independent or PTI candidates. “It will be difficult for the party to find a suitable candidate now,” he said.

When contacted, the PPP city president said the party wanted to field strong candidates but most of the local leaders were not interested. However, he said the situation would change if the Supreme Court disqualifies Sheikh Rashid. “Things will change and the party will launched big names from the two constituencies,” he said.

The apex court has reserved judgment in a case filed against Sheikh Rashid by a PML-N leader from Rawalpindi.

About his plan, the PPP city president said he would contest for a provincial assembly seat. He said the party had started preparing a list of candidates for the provincial assembly and comments from the workers would be sought soon.

He said the party had decided not to consider those who refused to contest the 2013 elections. “Those who refused to get the party tickets in difficult times in 2013 will not be accommodated,” he said.

About Amir Fida Paracha, he said he was not interested in contesting elections against Sheikh Rashid with whom he had family relations.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2018