The October 11 by-elections in Punjab have forced the PTI and the ruling PML-N to do some soul-searching, they have also exposed the parties’ errors in the selection of candidates and its consequences.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) reclaimed the National Assembly’s NA-122 (Lahore-V) constituency but could not secure the Punjab Assembly’s PP-147 (Lahore-XI) seat. On the other hand, the ruling party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) both lost the NA-144 (Okara-II) by-poll.
The results have triggered a blame game within the ranks of the PTI over the party’s choice of candidate for the NA-144 contest.
The PTI had fielded Ashraf Sohna with the blessing of the party’s national organiser, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Sohna had quit the Pakistan Peoples Party earlier this year over differences with the party leadership.
Since the PTI’s defeat in the Okara-II ballot, fingers have been pointed at Qureshi – who spearheaded the entire campaign for the constituency – over “poor performance”.
In Lahore, PTI Punjab organiser Chaudhry Sarwar had led the election campaign and his performance was appreciated by the party chairman, Imran Khan, during his October 14 visit to the city. Qureshi was once again absent from the event.
Rumours are rife that Qureshi has decided to quit the PTI. However, he has refuted all reports regarding his departure from the party on the microblogging website Twitter.
Meanwhile, sources have stressed that “Qureshi is leaving the PTI shortly”. They claimed that he was not even taking Imran’s calls.
The PTI chief had visited the party’s Garhi Shahu office in Lahore but Qureshi stayed away, which, according to sources, was another indication of growing differences.
They said Sarwar had also called for looking into the decision of awarding the party ticket to Sohna. Interestingly, however, Sarwar was part of the panel that interviewed the candidates for awarding the party ticket for the Okara poll.
A source said that “there is likelihood of Qureshi joining the party of former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf”. He has made up his mind and is weighing his options before joining Musharraf’s party, added the source.
Qureshi is a seasoned and constituency-based politician; therefore, his political future would not be harmed much by his decision, sources said.
When contacted for comments, Qureshi did not respond to queries about the rumours suggesting his differences with the party. On the other hand, PTI leaders refuted the reports.
Being the national organiser of the party, Qureshi is busy in preparations for the upcoming local government elections, they added.