LAHORE: On the eve of deadline for submission of party tickets to the Election Commission of Pakistan for allotment of electoral symbols, the PTI finalised a list of 297 candidates to contest the Punjab Assembly polls, slated to be held on May 14 as per court orders.

On the other hand, the PPP has also finalised its list of nominees for five divisions of central Punjab and tickets would be issued to these candidates by the local party leadership, which is said to be awaiting orders from the high command.

A PTI insider told Dawn that party chief Imran Khan — after completing the selection of candidates — summoned a meeting of regional presidents and district presidents at his Zaman Park residence in the provincial capital on Wednesday evening.

“Mr Khan handed over the tickets for the selected candidates to respective presidents of central, north, west and south regions of Punjab late on Wednesday evening for onward distribution to candidates across the province,” a party source told Dawn.

Leaked clip raises questions about process of awarding tickets to aspiring candidates; PPP okays nominees for five divisions

The source said all presidents would take the party tickets for the selected candidates to the districts and distribute them among the nominees before ‘Sehri’, so that they could file their papers with the ECP on Thursday morning.

ECP had given April 20 as the last date for the submission of party tickets by respective candidates for the May 14 elections.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan had decided to interview all party candidates in person to uphold merit in the award of tickets. Mr Khan, ahead of interviews, had stated that in 2018 the team entrusted with the task to award tickets was negligent in performing its duties. Since Mr Khan this time did not trust anyone among his lieutenants in the party, he held one-on-one interviews with all candidates to select nominees from April 6 to April 18.

The party, however, did not disclose the list of 297 selected candidates till the filing of this report. PTI social media coordinator Azhar Mahswani said the list of the PTI candidates would be uploaded to the official party website soon but did not give a timeframe in this regard.

Leaked audio clip

Meanwhile, an undated audio clip featuring a conversation purportedly between PTI leader Ejaz Chaudhry and an unknown person, who identifies himself as Chaudhry Hafeez, regarding the award of a ticket for a Faisalabad constituency was also circulating on social media. In the clip, whose veracity was confirmed to Dawn by Senator Chaudhry, Mr Hafeez can be heard asking whether a meeting with Imran Khan could be arranged to ask for a PTI ticket to contest polls in the PP-144 constituency of Faisalabad.

In the leaked clip, the caller could be heard saying that Senator Chaudhry did not tell him how big a donation was required for the party as well as for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital.

In response, he is heard saying that the candidate should at least offer Rs10 million to the party fund in a meeting with the PTI chairman.

PPP finalises nominees

Separately, the PPP, which could only finalise its candidates in five divisions of central Punjab said candidates will be issued party tickets by their divisional and district bodies after orders from the top leadership.

Lahore chapter president Aslam Gill was supposed to award tickets for all 30 provincial assembly seats in the region but he told Dawn late Wednesday evening that they had received no intimation from the party high command to issue the tickets. He said they have shortlisted candidates for each Lahore constituency but will make it public only after a go-ahead from the top brass.

Amjad Mehmood in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2023

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