ISLAMABAD: Model Town in Lahore, Banigala in Islamabad and Bilawal House in Karachi have become the centres of politics as aspiring candidates of the country’s three major political parties flock to their respective secretariats to secure tickets for the July 25 elections.
The central and provincial parliamentary boards and committees of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have been in session for the past many days interviewing applicants for party tickets and trying to settle disputes.
The decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to extend the date for receiving nomination papers has provided more time to political parties to finalise their candidates and resolve their internal disputes.
The parliamentary board of the formerly ruling PML-N has so far met twice in Lahore, PPP’s top leadership has been convening meetings at Bilawal House in Karachi almost on a daily basis since last week, whereas the PTI leadership has been busy in finalising candidates at party chairman’s Banigala residence in Islamabad.
The PTI — the first political party that had invited applications in April from those aspiring to get party tickets — has so far managed to announce only 28 candidates from Sindh and seven from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). However, the PPP and the PML-N have not announced a single candidate so far.
Interestingly, the leaders and office-bearers of the three parties when contacted had a similar excuse for the delay in finalising their candidates. They said they were facing difficulties in doing so because of the unprecedentedly large number of applicants.
PTI Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry said it was true that they had sought applications from aspiring candidates two months before the dissolution of the National Assembly, but the party was not expecting such a huge response from workers and members.
Mr Chaudhry said the PTI had received more than 4,300 applications from across the country for a little over 1,000 tickets. He said the party would not like to drag the matter for long and would announce the names of its candidates on Wednesday (tomorrow).
He claimed that PTI was the first party in the country to have invited online applications from candidates. The aspirants for the party tickets for contesting the elections on NA seats are required to deposit a non-refundable fee of Rs100,000 while those seeking to contest polls for provincial assembly seats on the party tickets are required to deposit Rs50,000 non-refundable fee along with their applications, according to him.
The PTI had announced that the names of candidates shortlisted by the parliamentary boards would be sent to party chairman Imran Khan for his approval.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said they had invited the applications much earlier considering the experience of 2013 general elections when the party could not get ample time to scrutinise candidates.
PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman told Dawn that they had been holding detailed meetings for the past few days during which the leadership had interviewed a number of potential candidates. She said the PPP provincial board members were interviewing each and every candidate before giving their recommendations. She said her party followed a lengthy procedure for finailsing its candidates, as it provided opportunity of hearing to each applicant. “We have been following this practice since the time when Benazir Bhutto headed the party,” she added.
She refused to share with the media the exact number of applicants, but said the PPP had received a huge number of applications from across the country, particularly in Sindh. In many towns and cities, she added, there were more than a dozen applicants from one constituency seeking a PPP ticket.
“The process is taking longer time than what we had expected because of the enthusiasm of party workers, particularly the youth, and a large number of applications,” she said.
She said though they had sufficient time to finalise the candidates, they would make all-out efforts to complete the task at the earliest.
However, PML-N information secretary Mushahidullah Khan said the party would utilise all the time it had to allocate tickets to applicants. The process could go on till the last week of June, he said.
He said rifts within political parties over the issue of ticket allocation were a common phenomenon before the general elections. He said the PML-N, which was generally known as a Punjab-based party, had received an encouraging response from Karachi and other parts of Sindh. He announced that the party had already finalised 21 candidates in Karachi for NA seats.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2018