GUJRAT: At least 200 candidates from 64 constituencies, including 20 National and 44 Punjab Assembly seats of the seven districts of Gujranwala region, have applied for party tickets of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).

A divisional level committee for the Gujranwala region being headed by party’s senior leader and former lawmaker from Rawalpindi Haneef Abbasi, on Thursday conducted the interviews at party’s regional office in Gakhar Mandi town of Gujranwala.

PML-N’s Gujranwala division president Abid Raza Kotla, district presidents and party’s coordinators for all the districts of the region also assisted the committee head during the interviews of their respective districts.

Party sources said that prior to the interviews of candidates at the divisional level, such an exercise had earlier been done at the district level during the current week which would be followed by another such round of interviews by the central parliamentary board of the party to finalise the candidates for Feb 8 elections.

Some senior parliamentarians belonging to the region have criticised the hectic exercise of interviews at different levels and termed it an unnecessary, unprecedented and humiliating procedure.

Interestingly, the additional secretary general of PML-N Ataullah Tarrar has, for the first time, applied for a party ticket from Gujranwala’s NA-77, the constituency that had earlier been contested by former federal minister and four-time ex-MNA Mehmood Basheer Virk whereas PML N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, senior leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif and former federal minister Khurram Dastgeer Khan are also among the aspirants of the party tickets from Narowal, Sialkot and Gujranwala cities.

Senior parliamentarians Nawabzada Ghazanfar Ali Gull, Malik Haneef Awan, Jaafar Iqbal Fatta Bhand and Abid Raza Kotla have applied from NA consistencies of Gujrat district as ex-MNA Haneef Awan (former Gujrat district president) applied for NA-62 and PP-27 (Sara-i Alamgir-Kotla) whereas Gujrat PML-N president Tahirul Mulk also applied for NA-63 and PP-29 (Jalalpur Jattan-Tanda).

Three women, including ex-MNAs Saira Afzal Tarrar (Hafizabad), Noasheen Iftkhar Dasak (Sialkot) and Maria Rizwan NA-64 (Gujrat city) are among aspirants on NA seats while ex-MPA Talat Shaukat Cheema is eying Wazirabad city’s PA seat.

The Gujranwala region has long been considered as a strong bastion of the PML-N in central Punjab where party had clinched a good number of NA and PA seats in the last three consecutive general elections. The PTI has emerged as a strong rival of the party in the region during the last decade.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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