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LAHORE: PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari spent four busy days in the provincial capital to finalise candidates in Punjab and shortlisted 10 party ticket aspirants for 14 National Assembly seats in Lahore, while the PML-N has also decided who would contest the poll from its platform in the provincial metropolis.

“Mr Zardari spent the days (in Lahore) interacting with the party leaders of Punjab and the candidates aspiring to be candidates for the national and provincial assemblies seats in July 25 polls,” a senior PPP leader told Dawn.

Mr Zardari was also conveyed that the party workers wanted PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto to contest from Lahore.

“The workers in Lahore are disappointed to see that their young leader is not contesting election from any constituency in the city which was once the citadel of the Bhutto’s party. They are of the view that irrespective of winning and losing Bilawal’s contesting from Lahore will have a positive impact on the party in Punjab where it has been struggling for revival for several years,” he said.

‘Zardari told workers wanted Bilawal to contest from the city’

Mr Zardari left for Karachi on Thursday afternoon and the party had conveyed to the ‘lucky’ candidates picked by the party’s parliamentary board for the national and provincial assemblies seats in Punjab. Interestingly, except Punjab, the PPP had announced candidates from all other provinces for both the national and provincial assembly seats.

“From Lahore the party’s parliamentary board, after holding consultation with Mr Zardari, has given a go ahead to 10 candidates for the National Assembly seats. They are: Samina Khalid Ghurki, Aslam Gill, Aurengzeb Burki, Amjad Jutt, Jamil Manj, Asim Bhatti, Zubair Kardar, Chaudhry Zaheer, Adil Mohyuddin and Zahid Malik,” the PPP leader said.

Of the 10 PPP candidates, seven are little known in the political circles. Amjad Jutt is a district president of the party and Adil Mohyuddin is the son of Hafiz Ghulam Mohyuddin who was a supporter of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and later joined the PPP. Asim Bhatti is the Punjab finance secretary of the party and Chaudhry Zaheer is an old worker. Jamil Manj has recently quit the PML-N and joined the PPP. Zahid Malik is a businessman and a friend of the PPP Lahore president Azizur Rehman Chan.

PPP parliamentary board member Chaudhry Manzoor told Dawn that it had finalised almost all the candidates in Punjab on both the national and provincial seats and a review by Mr Zardari had also been made. “We will issue the list of candidates after Eidul Fitr,” he said.

To a question about delay in finalising candidates in Punjab unlike other provinces, Mr Chaudhry said: “Some political adjustments are underway that took some extra time.”

Vice president of the PPP’s Punjab chapter Aslam Gill, who is also likely to contest from NA-133, said the party should not be considered as castaway in Punjab. “Besides performing well in Punjab, there are some constituencies in Lahore where we will give a surprise,” Mr Gill claimed and added both Mr Zardari and Mr Bilawal would visit Lahore and other parts of Punjab after Eid, launching the party’s election campaign.

PPP leader Barrister Amer Hasan said it was the only mainstream party which chose not to indulge in mudslinging. “Unlike PML-N and the PTI we are doing issue-based politics and we are positive that the people are realising this and will vote for us,” Mr Hasan said, complaining that the media’s focus was only on two parties -- the PML-N and the PTI -- “but I am sure once the election campaign kicks off after Eid we will make our presence felt.” To a question, he said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would contest from Lahore in 2023.

Meanwhile, a PML-N leader told Dawn that the candidates for Lahore NA seats had almost been finalised.

Talking about the possible PML-N candidates, he said: “Malik Riaz has been finalised for NA-123, Hamza Shahbaz for NA-124, Maryam Nawaz for NA-125, Mehr Ishtiaq for NA-126, Pervaiz Malik for NA-127, Rohail Asghar for NA-128, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for NA-129, Khwaja Ahmed Hassan for NA-130, Khwaja Saad Rafique for NA-131, Waheed Alam Khan for NA-133, Rana Mubashir for NA-134, Saiful Maluk Khokhar for NA-135 and Afzal Khokhar for NA-136.”

The PML-N leader said the party would announce its candidates for the national and provincial assemblies across the country after Eid. “A final approval of the list of candidates will be given by Nawaz Sharif,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2018