LAHORE: As the PML-N is ‘satisfied’ with the delay in the by-polls, especially in Punjab, the PTI says the Sharifs are waiting for the disqualification of Imran Khan to announce the general election.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a subsidiary of the PML-N. The Sharifs are waiting for PTI chairman Imran Khan’s disqualification to announce the schedule of general election,” PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn on Friday.

Mr Chaudhry says 13 coalition parties, led by the PML-N, knew that they would face a humiliating defeat both in the by-polls and general election.

“That’s why they see their only chance to stay politically relevant if Imran Khan is disqualified. And they are waiting for that to happen. They know that Mr Khan will sweep the polls if held as per schedule,” the former information minister said.

Fawad sees foul play behind the ECP’s move

The ECP on Thursday decided to postpone indefinitely the by-election on at least 10 National Assembly and three provincial assembly seats which was scheduled to take place between Sept 11 and Oct 2. The decision was made in a meeting of the election watchdog, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, which agreed to defer the polling for an indefinite period owing to floods and the unavailability of military and paramilitary personnel, currently busy in rescue operations, to perform duties on the day of elections.

Fawad Chaudhry said the way the by-polls were postponed and efforts were afoot to knock off Imran Khan, the people would take to the streets in protest.

Former federal minister Moonis Elahi laughed off the claim of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that “PPP’s Multan and Karachi candidates were frustrated by sudden postponement of by-election. No need to allow the PTI to run away from the election at the eleventh hour,” Moonis commented on Bilawal’s statement and tweeted: “Seriously???”

The ECP’s ‘sudden decision’ to postpone the by-polls due to floods raised several questions as there was no flood in Faisalabad, Multan, Khanewal, Bahawalnagar, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Karachi, Charsadda, Peshawar, Mardan and Kurram where by-elections were scheduled this month.

On the other hand, the PML-N has reportedly expressed its satisfaction over the delay in the by-election, especially in Punjab, because of its ‘weak position’.

As Imran Khan was leading the by-polls campaign across the country neither PML-N’s ‘crowd puller’ Maryam Nawaz nor PPP stalwart Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was seen in action in these constituencies. Maryam held a rally in Chishtian where the by-poll of Punjab Assembly seat was scheduled on Sept 11 when the ECP announced deferring the by-elections for an indefinite period.

“The top leadership of the coalition government seems to have known the plan to defer the by-polls; otherwise, it would have shown seriousness in launching an aggressive campaign in the constituencies where the by-election was being held,” a PML-N insider said.

The PML-N candidates of six constituencies where the by-polls were scheduled this month earlier had complained to party Quaid Nawaz Sharif to ask his daughter Maryam to hold at least a few rallies ahead of the by-election.

The PML-N had gone for an aggressive campaign in July by-polls in Punjab on 20 seats in which some of its main ministers resigned to take part in it but despite hectic efforts, it faced a humiliating defeat on 15 seats that cost the party the office of the chief minister.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2022

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