LAHORE: In another bid to frustrate the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), PTI Chairman Imran Khan has decided to contest by-elections on 33 National Assembly seats, vacated following the de-seating of PTI lawmakers by the Election Commission earlier this month.

The by-polls on these seats will take place on March 16. According to PTI, the party leaders who were de-seated from the said constituencies will submit their nomination papers as covering candidates for Mr Khan.

This is not the first time Imran Khan has decided to contest polls on multiple seats against the ruling PDM. In previous by-elections held in October 2022, the PTI chairman contested from eight constituencies and emerged victorious in six.

Speaking to media persons in Lahore, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the decision to field Mr Khan on all the vacant seats was taken after a meeting of the core committee and parliamentary party members at Zaman Park. The matter was discussed at length and it was decided that the PTI would fully participate in the elections, he added.

PTI urges Alvi to intervene over ‘growing interference’ of establishment in politics

The meeting agreed that the PDM government was shying away from holding general elections in Punjab and KP within 90 days but it was ready to test its “political engineering” in the upcoming by-elections, the former minister said, adding that the nation “would teach the corrupt PDM leaders a lesson yet again”.

Mr Qureshi also talked about backdoor talks between the establishment and PTI. He said the former ruling party has no contact with the establishment anymore.

“President Dr Arif Alvi made efforts for bridge-building [between PTI and establishment] but there was no progress,” he regretted.

About Fawad Chaudhry’s arrest, Mr Qureshi said not only the PTI but Mr Chaudhry’s detractors were also criticising the actions of the government. “Even senators and senior lawyers have condemned the way Mr Chaudhry is being treated,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry’s wife Hiba Fawad said her husband was being treated like a terrorist and added that the PTI mouthpiece was “being subjected to torture”.

She said Mr Chaudhry was not allowed to meet his daughters despite court orders. “We will file a contempt of court petition in the higher court,” she added.

Asad Umar, the PTI secretary general, while responding to a question, said the Lahore High Court would hopefully give a date for elections in Punjab on Monday (today). He added the PTI would also file a similar petition in the Peshawar High Court seeking a date for polls in KP.

Resolutions

The PTI passed four resolutions during its meeting. Through the resolutions, the party demanded elections in Punjab and KP in the stipulated time of three months; asked President Arif Alvi to take notice of KP Governor Ghulam Ali’s statement about elections; denounced the arrest of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry; and condemned PDM for its failure to stabilise the economy.

These resolutions were read out by Mr Qureshi and Asad Umar, who were flanked by Fawad Chaudhry’s wife at the presser.

Elaborating on the resolutions, Mr Qureshi said the first resolution related to the holding of elections in Punjab and KP within the stipulated time limit of 90 days. “The PTI leadership calls upon the judiciary and nation’s attention to the irrevocable fact that the Constitution categorically states that after the dissolution of a legislature elections have to be held within 90 days and not a day later,” reads the resolution.

“The PTI voluntarily dissolved its two provincial assemblies and now any delay in elections (even an hour) citing any reason will be a subversion of the Constitution and liable to be subject to Article 6 of the Constitution,” it read.

In the second resolution, the PTI leadership drew the attention of President Alvi — the supreme commander of armed forces — to take notice of KP governor’s statement wherein he stated that “election date for the KP Assembly will be given by the agencies and establishment”.

The PTI urged the president to take notice of this “growing interference by intelligence agencies and other sections of establishment” in the political sphere. It said the president should also take note of FIRs, abductions, custodial torture, and threatening phone calls to PTI workers and leaders, being carried out allegedly at the behest of the “black sheep in state organisations”.

“This is bringing infamy on our military which will lead to strengthening our external enemies and fifth columnists in Pakistan,” the resolution stated.

In the third resolution, the PTI leadership condemned the arrest of Fawad Chaudhry on sedition charges and called on the chief justice to take suo motu notice.

In the last resolution, the PTI leadership lashed out at the PDM government over the handling of economy since April last year. The government has subjected the masses to the “worst inflation in 50 years”.

It added that mass unemployment and tanking economic growth have brought the country on the verge of default.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2023

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