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LAHORE: In spite of efforts by leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to placate workers who failed to get tickets for the general election, the disgruntled have opted to stay in the field as independents not out of a conviction that they will win, but to satiate their “thirst for revenge”.

The angry ones contend that unlike their colleagues who accepted the leadership’s decision without demur, they have the courage to take on their parties.

Many of them refused to fall for last-minute persuasions. “I am contesting election from NA-129 (Lahore) in an attempt to divide the PML-N vote. This way I feel relieved of the pain the party leadership inflicted upon me,” Farzana Butt told Dawn. Ms Butt was a member of the Punjab Assembly (2013-18) and regarded as an outspoken PML-N loyalist.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq is the PML-N candidate who is trying to persuade her to withdraw in his favour.

“I have served PML-N for more than 30 years. During the Musharraf regime I was imprisoned for raising my voice in favour of the Sharifs. I could not even give time to my family because of commitment to my party. But in return the leadership ignored me and other loyal workers to oblige the super rich,” Ms Butt said.

“I was approached by PTI and religious parties, but I decided not to withdraw in favour of any party’s candidate. The sole purpose of contesting the polls is to tell the PML-N leadership that it should not consider us tissue paper,” a furious Ms Butt grumbled.

Another PML-N diehard, Tiyyab Rashid Sindhu, who is an independent candidate from PP-140 (Sheikhupura), said since the party did not consider him worthy of a ticket, contesting the election is the “best way to vent my outrage”.

Zaeem Qadri, a PML-N stalwart and former provincial minister, is an independent candidate from NA-133 (Lahore) against Lahore PML-N president Pervaiz Malik. He claims that victory is not his motivation. “My pride stands wounded because the PML-N high-ups belittled my services to the party. I am in the field only to tell the leadership that I can survive in politics without the blessings of the Sharifs,” Qadri said, his face a picture of disillusionment.

The gulf separating the PML-N and the PTI notwithstanding, the latter’s ticket-less ones are no different in denunciation of their party.

“The PTI leadership ignored the recommendation of the selection committee and awarded ticket to an outsider. I am fighting this injustice,” PTI’s Matiullah Marvat, who is contesting as an independent on PK-73 (Hayatabad, Peshawar), told Dawn.

His grouse is that merit was not the sole criterion in award of tickets. “I have been associated with PTI for more than 10 years and have rendered services for the party, but it has given ticket to a man who parachuted into our ranks just six months ago. It hurts badly,” said Marvat, his voice cracking with emotion. “Victory or defeat is immaterial to me, but I will make sure that parachutists bite the dust.”

A good number of PML-N and PTI workers who failed to get tickets are contesting from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Perhaps for the first time a series of protests were staged by workers of the two parties recently outside the Banigala and Model Town residences of Imran Khan and Shahbaz Sharif, respectively.

Farzana Butt, the PML-N MPA now left to fend for herself, said this time around political workers were demonstrating greater awareness than in the past.

Imran Khan, the PTI supremo, has made a passionate appeal to all those party workers contesting independently to withdraw in favour of the party’s candidates. “I ask you to withdraw in favour of the party’s candidates and if you do not do so, it means you are virtually favouring the PML-N.

“I also ask those who did not get tickets to work for the party and get its candidates elected,” Mr Khan said at a gathering in Lahore’s Shahdara on Wednesday. He made this appeal hours after a ‘flop’ show in Jhelum where infighting over the choice of candidates ultimately led to what one PTI leader called a depressing turnout at Imran Khan’s public meeting.

Fawad Chaudhry, a PTI spokesperson who is an NA candidate from Jhelum, told Dawn that workers who contest independently would be expelled from the party. “Khan Sahib has asked them to withdraw and if they do not do so, they will be expelled.”

Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PML-N spokesperson, said: “We are trying [to persuade such candidates] as we have a reconciliatory policy.”

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2018