ISLAMABAD: Just hours after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the schedule for by-elections on nine general seats of the National Assembly, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan — in a bid to set a record — announced his candidature on all nine seats in the Sept 25 elections.

The nine seats are among the 11 vacated after acceptance of resignations of PTI MNAs by the National Assembly speaker, and their de-notification, last week.

The announcement that Mr Khan will contest from all nine constituencies first came from PTI’s official Twitter account, and was later confirmed by the party’s Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry while speaking at a press conference.

The nine constituencies where by-elections will be held on Sept 25 are NA-22 Mardan, NA-24 Charsadda, NA-31 Peshawar, NA-45 Kurram, NA-108 Faisalabad, NA-118 Nankana Sahib, NA-237 Malir, NA-239 Korangi Karachi and NA-246 Karachi South.

ECP announces Sept 25 by-polls on seats vacated after acceptance of 11 PTI lawmakers’ resignations

National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had, on July 28, accepted the resignations of 11 PTI MNAs — nine on general seats and two on reserved seats for women — sparking a controversy over piecemeal acceptance of resignations. These lawmakers were among the more than 120 who had resigned from their NA seats en masse on April 11, two days after former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted from the top office in a no-confidence vote.

The PTI leaders whose resignations were accepted and who were also de-notified as lawmakers by the ECP, included Ali Muhammad Khan, Fazal Muhammad Khan, Shaukat Ali, Fakhar Zaman Khan, Farrukh Habib, Jamil Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Akram Cheema, Abdul Shakoor Shad, Dr Shireen Mazari, Shandana Gulzar Khan and Ijaz Ahmed Shah. Dr Mazari and Shandana Khan had been elected on reserved seats for women.

During the 2018 general elections, the PTI chairman had contested elections from five constituencies and had emerged victorious on all of them. He had defeated PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique in NA-131 Lahore, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N in NA-53 Islamabad, the late Syed Ali Raza Abidi of the MQM-Pakistan in NA-243, Ubaidullah Khan of the PML-N in NA-95 Mianwali and Akram Khan Durrani in NA-35 Bannu.

According to the ECP, candidates could submit their nomination papers between Aug 10 and 13, which would be scrutinised by Aug 17, while election symbols would be issued to the candidates on Aug 29. The last date to decide appeals against the acceptance and rejection of nomination papers, by the appellate tribunal, is Aug 25.

Mr Khan’s announcement to contest the by-polls on all nine seats has startled many, with some commentators questioning if the PTI chairman could not find any other suitable candidate and the expenses to be incurred on the subsequent by-elections should Mr Khan win multiple seats and quits all but one.

Talking to Dawn, Fafen representative Mudassir Rizvi said the Constitution provided for by-elections to be held within a certain time-frame after a seat fell vacant, as well as allowing a candidate to contest on multiple seats but retain just one, in case the nominee wins from multiple constituencies.

“That way our Constitution also allows state funds to be incurred on political ambitions of political leaders and parties. In just one constituency only, the kind of staff required, number of polling stations and booths set up, and at least a couple of thousand election staff involved, the expenses run into millions each time.”

Moreover, in case a candidate contests by-polls or general elections from multiple constituencies, the leader is just trying to prove his popularity.

Sheharyar Rizwan in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022

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