ISLAMABAD: As Imran Khan continues to put pressure on the government to give a date for general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman met on Saturday to chalk out a strategy regarding the upcoming elections in both provinces, as well as the National Assembly seats vacated by their rivals.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), PM Shehbaz and the PDM chief took stock of the overall political situation and also discussed issues of mutual interest.
When contacted, a senior PDM leader told Dawn that the meeting was “quite significant” as the two leaders “agreed to contest elections” on vacant NA seats, which are likely to be held next month. The coalition leader said it will be decided within a few days whether the PDM would field joint candidates or the parties would prefer to contest the polls individually. The source said that as per the schedule for by-polls, candidates could submit their nomination papers from Feb 4 to Feb 6.
It may be noted here that former prime minister Imran Khan has doubled down on his demand for timely polls in KP and Punjab, as he linked his party’s participation in the multi-party conference — summoned in the wake of a surge in terror attacks — with the announcement of a date for the elections.
Insiders suggest coalition leaders have ‘agreed to contest by-polls on NA seats’
The Election Commission of Pakistan has also suggested to the governors of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to select dates from April 9 to 13 for the Punjab and from April 15 to 17 for the KP Assembly, but the governors have refused and asked the electoral body to do so after consultations with stakeholders.
The PPP has already invited applications from hopeful candidates for the by-polls and a meeting chaired by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will vet the aspiring nominees on Sunday (today). Other parties in the ruling coalition, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the JUI-F, have yet to make a decision in this regard.
When Imran Khan announced that he will contest by-elections on the 33 seats that had fallen vacant in the first phase of acceptance of resignations of 154 PTI MNAs, the PDM was in a fix on whether or not to take part in the polls. However, the PPP was the first to start spade-work for the by-polls despite the fact that the PDM had announced that all parties in the ruling alliance will make a unanimous decision in this regard.
Initially, the PTI had announced Imran Khan as their sole candidate for the 33 slots and Mr Khan had boasted that he would set another record on March 16 by bagging these seats. That was not the first time Imran Khan had decided to contest polls on multiple seats against the ruling PDM. In by-elections in October last year, the PTI chairman contested from eight constituencies and emerged victorious on six.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2023
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.