LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s independent candidates have eventually begun their door-to-door election campaign in Lahore amidst fear of arrests and harassment by police.

The police have so far been raiding and arresting PTI potential candidates, their family members, and workers, depriving them of the right to run their campaigns and hold public meetings even after the allocation of symbols.

Many PTI-backed candidates still can’t muster up the courage to launch canvassing in their respective constituencies.

The PTI-backed candidate for NA-128, Salman Akram Raja, and PP-169 candidate Mahmoodur Rasheed on Sunday organised a motorcycle rally in the constituency. PTI workers and youth participated in the rally while holding the party flags.

They also raised slogans while playing the party songs on speaker-mounted vehicles in the rally. The candidates are contesting the election with “racket” as their election symbol.

As Mr Raja began his campaign in his constituency, he wrote on his ‘X’ handle: “Campaigning. What joy to be with the people, giving them hope while being inspired by their courage”.

Similarly, PTI-backed NA-117 candidate Ali Ijaz Buttar, having ‘piyala’ as his election symbol, has launched a door-to-door election campaign.

In the absence of party election symbol, several independent candidates, who belonged to the PTI but were denied the ticket, are also campaigning as Imran Khan-backed aspirants.

The party leaders and social media activists are trying to identify such candidates to save the party voters from any confusion.

The party has also created a “PTI’s Elections 2024 portal for candidates” displaying its candidates’ names and symbols. The voters have been advised to confirm the names and symbols of the actual party candidates in their respective constituencies.

However, many voters who tried to log on to Insaf.pk/elections2024, complained that the link was not working. Though the PTI has itself acknowledged on the log-on page of the portal: “So far, only [the names of] candidates for the National Assembly have been posted. Candidates for the Provincial Assemblies will be updated shortly”, the voters could not even get the names and symbols of the respective PTI candidates from their constituencies.

Meanwhile, the PTI ex-chairman Barrister Gohar Khan has urged the masses to vote for Imran Khan’s candidates on Feb 8 and express their desire to have a country free of qabza groups and victimisation culture.

Speaking at the party’s second marathon “online jalsa” after Saturday midnight, Mr Khan said only Imran Khan’s government would be able to protect the rights of the younger generation and give them a country where they would be able to express themselves freely and without fear of victimisation. He said Imran Khan believed in democracy and the rule of law.

Mr Khan has also appealed to the overseas Pakistanis to ensure maximum voting on Feb 8 by their near and dear ones living in Pakistan.

PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub said the key to free Imran Khan is with the masses. “Vote for PTI-backed candidates and Imran Khan will soon be free”.

He also stressed that the party’s polling agents should ensure there should be no rigging or other corrupt practices at the polling stations. He said the party’s polling agents should leave polling stations only after collecting signed forms 45 and 46.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2024

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