GUJRAT: The poor selection of candidates and controversy over award of tickets at the local level may have been the reasons for the defeat of PML-N candidates in two out of three cantonment boards elections in Gujranwala region, however, the party’s senior leadership will soon review the overall performance of its candidates across the country, party’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn on Tuesday.

He was replying to a question regarding the party’s defeat in the cantonment boards areas in Gujranwala and Kharian, that were otherwise considered the PML-N’s bastions.

In the recent cantonment boards poll, the party has lost at least eight out of total 10 wards in Gujranwala and both wards in Kharian cantonment, where its candidate stood last among the five competitors in Ward 1.

Mr Iqbal said political parties would always need to do proper homework for the local body elections by uniting all their potential candidates, who were denied the ticket, to back their ticket holders.

However, he said, though the PML-N was satisfied with the overall results in the cantonment boards election, it would definitely probe into the case of Gujranwala to find the reasons for its defeat, while efforts would be made to avoid such a situation in the next general elections.

Mr Iqbal, however, explained that the wards where the PML-N candidates lost in Gujranwala comprised rural areas where usually the party’s local groups had minor differences which they ignore in the general elections and support the party candidate.

He said the party had performed very well in Sialkot and Rawalpindi cantonment boards where its candidates had been defeat in 2018 general elections.

Moreover, he said that those who had been claiming that Nawaz Sharif’s narrative had no support among the public should now have learnt that the “narrative” was also popular in the cantonment areas despite the fact that the ruling party always had an edge in any local bodies elections.

He dispelled the impression that there was any confusion among the PML-N’s senior leaders over policy matters, claiming that everyone from Shehbaz Sharif to a street worker followed the policy line given by Nawaz Sharif.

To a question, he linked the return of Nawaz Sharif to the country with the advice of his doctors in London.

Asked about defeat of PML-N candidates on four seats of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) Assembly in the region, he said the party had lost these seats by a narrow margin due to “the rigging committed by the local administration”, while its pleas for recounting votes were not being entertained.

However, sources in the party’s local chapter said that former Gujrat mayor Haji Nasir Mahmood had recently apprised the PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah of the poor state of party’s affairs in Gujrat district and informed him that the “ignoring the old guard” by the central leadership had disillusioned its local cadre.

They said Mr Mahmood had warned the provincial president that if the situation persisted the party might suffer a huge loss in the district in the next general elections as well.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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