LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which is struggling to muster enough numbers in the Punjab Assembly to form a government in the province, is also faced with another dilemma: selection of a suitable candidate for the chief executive of the province. Out of Punjab’s 297 seats, the PTI has so far won 122 seats, according to unofficial results.

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi could have been considered a potential candidate for the chief minister’s slot, but he lost from PP-217 Multan-VII.

As the seat is wide open with no clear candidate yet, various quarters have initiated campaigns to pitch certain candidates for the coveted slot.

According to a campaign running on an online political forum, Dr Yasmin Rashid should be considered as a potential candidate for Punjab chief minister, as she proved herself a strong worker in her three elections in the ancestral constituency of the Sharif family. Dr Rashid also served as PTI Punjab’s general secretary.

Though she lost from the Sharif stronghold (now NA-125) following a neck-and-neck fight, but Dr Rashid tops the party’s list for women’s reserved seats.

Advocating that a candidate entering the Punjab Assembly on a reserved seat could become a chief minister, the online campaign is seeking public opinion on who should become the CM from amongst Dr Rashid, PTI central Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry -- who pitched his name himself, and PTI Punjab President Abdul Aleem Khan.

Voting in the online polls suggests, so far, that 65 per cent respondents wanted Dr Rashid as the chief minister, while 23 per cent favoured Mr Chaudhry and 12 per cent Mr Khan. As many as 9,312 voters had participated in the poll till 10pm.

While a large number of party workers are promoting Aleem Khan as a potential candidate for the chief minister’s position, others believe Mr Khan is facing inquiries in the accountability bureau over his offshore companies and a land scam. They even claim that Mr Khan was demoralised after losing from PP-162 as well as NA-129 even though he may have won from PP-158.

Fawad Chaudhry has pitched himself as a candidate for the slot, saying in a talk show on television: “It will be a lie to say that I’m not a candidate for chief ministership.”

Former opposition leader in Punjab Assembly, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, who had earlier on Thursday dispelled any impression of being a candidate for the CM’s slot during a formal media talk, has now floated his name.

In reference to reports that former chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi could be a potential candidate for the top slot in Punjab, Mr Chaudhry asserted that only a PTI member would be selected as the chief minister.

In order to gather enough numbers to form a government in Punjab, Mr Chaudhry said the PTI had contacted 21 independents, while eight more would be contacted on Saturday (today). He also claimed that the eight independents would be meeting party Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday to formally join the PTI.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2018

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