ISLAMABAD: As parties in the ruling coalition mull whether or not to participate in the upcoming by-elections to 33 National Assembly seats, one of the allies, Pakistan Peoples Party, has invited applications for tickets from aspiring candidates.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced the schedule for the by-polls on seats that fell vacant after the resignations of PTI lawmakers were accepted by Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The polling will be held on March 16.

According to a press release issued by PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar, the candidates have been asked to address their applications to PPP-Parliamentarians president Asif Zardari and enclose a bank draft for Rs40,000.

Aspirants from Sindh and Balochistan have been directed to send applications to Bilawal House, Karachi, while those from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to Zardari House, Islamabad.

Party leaders don’t want to give PTI ‘open field’; ‘N’ yet to decide whether it will take part

The party has set Feb 3 as the last date for receiving applications.

The PPP’s move came a day after PTI Chairman Imran Khan announced he would contest by-elections to all 33 seats.

According to the PTI, the party leaders who were de-seated from the said constituencies would submit their nomination papers as covering candidates.

This was not the first time Mr Khan decided for a solo run on multiple seats. In the previous by-elections, held in October 2022, the PTI chairman contested from eight constituencies, winning six of them.

When contacted, Mr Babar said the decision to take part in the elections was made during a meeting of the party’s office-bearers from all four provinces on Monday.

He said the leaders were of the view that the PPP should stay away from the polls as taking part in the exercise would provide legitimacy to the PTI’s decision to resign from the assembly.

However, he said during the meeting, the party, after discussing all pros and cons, unanimously decided to not leave the field open and contest the by-elections.

Sources within the PPP told Dawn that during Monday’s meeting, party leaders spoke in favour of contesting the by-elections.

They argued that if no candidate was fielded in the March by-polls, voters might switch to other parties. This will also have an impact during the expected elections for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assemblies in April.

They were of the view that it was necessary to take part in the electoral exercise, irrespective of the result, to keep the voters and activists charged, the sources added.

Some PPP office-bearers, particularly from Balochistan, said they had reports that even if the PDM decided to boycott the by-elections, the party leadership might support some independent candidates to maintain their presence in the assembly.

Soon after the acceptance of the resignations of PTI lawmakers, some PML-N leaders reportedly stated the party would stay away from the by-elections.

Indecisive PML-N

While PPP has apparently started the preparation for by-polls, PML-N is still holding its cards close to the chest.

Soon after the resignations of PTI lawmakers were accepted, some PML-N leaders reportedly stated the party would stay away from the by-elections.

The PML-N leaders, including Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, said this would expose the “double standards” of the PTI which, on one hand, was coming out of the parliament and on the other hand, contesting the elections.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said though he believed the party should not participate in the by-elections, they were yet to make a final decision.

He said they were expected to make a decision in the next couple of days after consulting all the parties in the PDM as well as the ruling coalition.

When told that the PPP had invited applications, Mr Iqbal said it didn’t matter as they still had time to make a decision, claiming that “either we will collectively boycott or take part in the elections”.

Mr Iqbal censured the PTI chairman’s decision to contest the elections on all 33 seats. He said even if Mr Khan returned to the NA after winning all the seats, he would be counted as “one member” and the remaining 32 seats would be wasted.

He also refuted the impression that the coalition parties were running away from the polls, saying general elections were just a few months away for which the party was fully prepared.Moreover, Mr Iqbal said candidates would not be interested in contesting by-elections and spend heavily on campaigns only to become a lawmaker for five months.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023



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