LAHORE: The selection of a candidate for NA-131 by-election is becoming a tough decision amid speculations, with one group lobbying for new party entrant Humayun Akhtar Khan and the other supporting PTI’s long-time associate Waleed Iqbal.
Campaigners say Mr Khan is a strong candidate and is able to spend money to contest a tough fight against PML-N stalwart Khwaja Saad Rafique who also gave a tough fight to PTI chairman Imran Khan and lost election with around 600 votes.
Waleed Iqbal’s supporters say the voters in constituency want a party face to contest the by-election and that “Imran Khan had himself promised that Waleed Iqbal would be given party ticket from this constituency to contest by-election.”
The PTI has conducted telephonic as well as on ground surveys in the constituency to select a popular candidate, sources in the party say, adding that the results are expected to be communicated to the party leadership on Monday or Tuesday.
“The party is in no hurry to announce its candidate and may take a decision at the eleventh hour as the Election Commission of Pakistan will need party tickets on Sept 14 or 15 to announce final party candidates on Sept 16,” say sources.
Humayun Akhtar Khan and Waleed Iqbal are top contenders whereas Farhat Abbas, Ibrarul Haq and Ali Imtiaz Warraich have also applied for the party ticket.
Both Humayun Akhtar Khan and Waleed Iqbal are already campaigning in the constituency and the latter’s electronic calls are reaching the voters, wherein, he says, “Dear voters, you supported Imran Khan in NA-131, hopefully, you will again support PTI to retain the seat.”
Mr Waleed told Dawn that he was keenly waiting for party decision and optimistic about his chance of getting the ticket.
On NA-124 front, general election losing candidate Nauman Qaiser has already withdrawn himself from contesting the by-election.
Now, party’s 2013 general election candidate Muhammad Madni as well as Azad Kashmir MLA Ghulam Mohiuddin Dewan are in the run to get the party ticket to begin with. PTI’s old guard Shahid Siddique Khan and another candidate Haji Imtiaz are also in the run for the ticket.
Since Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz had won the NA-131 seat with a big margin of some 70,000 votes and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is a PML-N candidate, sources in the PTI say the party needed a strong candidate who could match Mr Abbasi and take advantage of his party ruling Punjab and Centre.
Mr Madni’s supporters say he was a party worker in this constituency for years and hopeful to get ticket, while Mr Dewan was already accommodated as AJK MLA.
Mr Dewan is of the view that he is a resident and doing business in this constituency throughout his life. He says he is a dual national and can retain both MLA as well as MNA seats, if he wins the NA-124 election.
Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2018