ISLAMABAD: With its founder Imran Khan in prison, the leadership role has become a conundrum for PTI, as it has taken a U-turn and once again nominated Barrister Gohar Ali Khan for the party’s top post.

Mr Gohar was elected as PTI chairman after securing Mr Khan’s backing in the December 2023 intra-party elections, which led the party to being depri­ved of its ‘bat’ symbol by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Last week, the party decided to hold fresh polls on March 3 and named Barrister Ali Zafar as Mr Khan’s nominee for the post of chairman.

Speaking to the media outside Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, Barrister Gohar had announced Mr Zafar’s candidature.

Party sources say Mr Zafar has refused to accept the chairmanship.

It couldn’t be confirmed through independent sou­rces if Mr Zafar has voluntarily refused or has been stopped by the party from submitting nomination papers.

“We have issued a bulletin regarding nomination papers, and all the information has been provided in it. I don’t have anything else to share,” said Raoof Hasan, who is also the party’s chief election commissioner.

According to details, the deadline to submit nomination papers ended at 3pm on Sunday, and only Mr Gohar submitted his candidature for the top post.

Omar Ayub Khan, along with a 15-member panel, has submitted nomination papers for the position of general secretary.

In Punjab, Dr Yasmin Rashid, who is currently in prison, is Mr Khan’s nominee to lead the party’s provincial chapter. So is Haleem Adil Sheikh in Sindh, Dr Munir Baloch in Balochistan and Ali Amin Gandapur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The victory of Mr Khan-backed candidates is almost guaranteed, but to meet ECP’s requirement and avoid any unopposed election, rival panels have also submitted nomination papers.

Ashraf Qureshi from Sindh, Muhammad Aslam from Balochistan, and Naveed Anjum from KP have submitted nomination papers, as per details stated by PTI.

In Punjab, Muhammad Khan Madni and Asad Hanif have submitted nomination papers for their panels. In Sindh, a panel headed by Khawand Bakhsh Ghulam Muhammad will also contest the election. In Balochistan, five different panels have submitted nomination papers.

A senior party official, wishing not to be named, told Dawn that Mr Gohar’s success is certain since the former prime minister has nominated him.

Unlike the December 2023 election, which was held in Peshawar, this time, the exercise will be held in Islamabad and all four provincial capitals, the PTI leader said, adding over six million party members would be allowed to cast their votes physically.

There would be four provincial commissioners to supervise the polls and the results would be declared by 8pm on March 3, and winners notified on the next day.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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