RAWALPINDI, April 2: Angry activists of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) here on Tuesday stormed the party office at Liaquat Bagh in protest against what they said unfair distribution of tickets for the forthcoming general elections in the district.

The protesting PPP workers, numbering over 200, were led by Chaudhry Asad Pervez, an aspirant for the party ticket for NA-56, Banaras Chaudhry (PP-13), Jamil Qureshi (PP-14), Imran Hayat (NA-56) and Nasir Mir (PP-12).

The workers gathered at the monument of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and chanted slogans against the party leadership, including Faryal Talpur, the head of the PPP parliamentary board and sister of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Carrying banners and placards, the protesters also burnt tyres and blocked the road.

In the meantime, some of the protesters entered the premises of the park and pelted the PPP office with stones, smashing its windowpanes.

Shujaat Haider Naqvi, the information secretary of the PPP, told Dawn that he was inside the office along with 84-year-old party worker Ghulam Ahmed Shah and Khawaja Imtiaz when all of a sudden two stones hit the windowpanes and smashed it.

“We saved our lives by ducking under the tables and stairs.”

He said he informed the PPP city president Amir Fida Paracha about the incident, who was at the district courts at that time.

When contacted, Mr Paracha told Dawn that “some miscreants had tried to tarnish the image of the party. Our party workers will never do this and there was a conspiracy behind this to spoil the image of the party leadership.”

He said he had requested the police to lodge an FIR against the miscreants who attacked the PPP office under the guise of party workers. “We have also asked the electronic media covering the event to provide us the footage so that we can identify all those involved in it.”

Mr Paracha said the PPP had not yet announced the party tickets and it was premature to speculate about who would get the tickets.

“The PPP will announce the tickets after the death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 4,” he added.

On the other hand, those who staged the protest demonstration alleged that the “London Group” at the Zardari House, patronised by Faryal Talpur, had given the green signal for the tickets to some party leaders in different constituencies.

Asad Pervaiz, a PPP aspirant for NA-56, said the tickets were being doled out by the parliamentary board headed by Faryal Talpur, Yousaf Raza Gilani and Manzoor Watto without taking the local leaders and workers on board. “This is not fair,” he added.

“How can the central leadership ignore the district organisations in awarding tickets for the elections,” he said and added that the local board consisting of Sultan Mehmood Qazi, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and others had suggested their names.

He said the central leadership awarded party ticket to Israr Abbasi Advocate for NA-56 ignoring those who had been affiliated with the party for the last 30 years. He said the ‘London group’ of Faryal Talpur did not know the ground realities.

Nasir Mir, another local PPP leader, and aspirant for a ticket from PP-12, said the old and diehard workers were being ignored in ticket distribution.

He said the “London Group”, comprising those who had fled the country in 1996 after the PPP government was dissolved, had returned to Islamabad and was influencing the party decision makers.

In reply to a question, Mir said those who ransacked the party office had no affiliation with the PPP. It is a plot to create differences between the PPP workers and the central leadership.

“The workers were protesting peacefully and had invited us to join them to convey their grievances to the party leadership.”

However, sources said the local leaders had instigated the angry workers to storm into the party secretariat.

Amjad Iqbal adds from Taxila: The distribution of tickets by the PPP has also deepened rifts in the party in Taxila. Many disgruntled applicants have decided to contest the upcoming elections independently, reports Amjad Iqbal.

Two PPP groups have filed their nominations on the last day of filing nomination papers. On this occasion, one group led by Amir Iqbal Khan, who contested the 2008 elections for a provincial assembly seat on the PPP ticket and is an aspirant for PP-8, raised slogans against the party parliamentary board outside the judicial complex. Mr Khan said he contested the 2008 elections from the party platform and got 29,763 votes.

Raja Mohammad Khusro, the president of the PPP Wah Cantonment chapter; former MPA Waqar Ali Khan, who is also close relative of PML-N leader Nisar Ali Khan, and Haji Dildar Khan, who recently parted ways with the PML-N and formed an independent group, also joined the protest of the angry PPP workers.

Faisal Iqbal, who is commonly known as the “Edhi of Wah Cantt” and who contested the 2008 elections as an independent candidate from PP-8 and NA-53, is also supporting this group.

The other group led by Justice (retd) Syed Intikhab Shah, comprising former provincial parliamentary secretary Kamran Ali Khan and Sardar Waqas Khan, has recently joined the party.

Mr Khan is vying for the provincial assembly seat of PP-8 and his entry into the party has caused cracks among the party workers.

Najeebur Rehman, the PPP Taxila chapter president, and other party workers are supporting this group.

Talking to this reporter, PPP Taxila chapter President Malik Najeebur Rehman said tickets had been allotted by the party high command and parliamentary board keeping in view the previous progress of the candidates. He said all the party workers and office-bearers should follow the party discipline and avoid agitation.

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