PML-N not to give preferential treatment to PTI dissidents

Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders have said that the party would not give any preference to the dissident Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers, who switched sides earlier this year and lost in the by-elections, in the award of tickets in the general elections.

Several PML-N office-bearers told The Express Tribune that the party would award tickets “purely on merit” whenever the elections were called. They said that the former parliamentarians who switched to the PML-N prior to the election of the Punjab chief minister in April would not be given any preferential treatment.

A number of PTI dissidents voted for the PML-N candidate Hamza Shehbaz in the chief minister’s election. However, the dissident members were de-seated, while a court ordered that their vote in favour of Hamza. Later, in the re-election Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was elected the chief minister.

A PML-N office-bearer from Punjab said that the country’s biggest province would be the most important battleground for both the parties. He predicted “a tough contest between the PML-N and the PTI” but admitted their rivals would have a slight edge given the ongoing economic turmoil.

“In these circumstances, the party wants to put its best foot forward,” the office-bearer said, while speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid unnecessary speculation. “By allotting tickets to them [PTI dissidents] in by-elections the PML-N has fulfilled its commitment,” he said.

“No favours will be granted to former PTI lawmakers who fought on the party’s ticket and lost,” he said, adding however, those with bright chances of winning could be considered. “The main problem is their acceptability within the party fold,” he continued.

“The PML-N workers and supporters have refused to accept them. This factor of acceptability is critical to reach a consensus among party supporters,” he said. “The committees at the divisional level want that all our supporters remain on the same page and that no one gets offended in the allotment of tickets.”

He expressed the fear that some party members, could end up contesting as independent candidates, if the party ticket was not awarded to them. “For the party, it is important to ensure that party leaders don’t end up contesting as independent candidates because it would divide the PML-N vote bank,” he added.

When pointed out that there could be some heavyweights among the PTI dissidents, who lost the by-polls, the PML-N office-bearers said that “obviously, candidates with their own vote bank and bright chances of winning could be considered. However, he stressed the need for consensus at the local leadership on them.

When contacted, PML-N Punjab spokesperson Azma Bukhari said that tickets would be awarded on merit, and whoever fulfilled the party requirement would be considered for the ticket.

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