Imran Khan undecided on keeping NA-56 or NA-71 seat


Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is facing pressure from his party leaders of Mianwali and Rawalpindi not to vacate seats he won on May 11.
Imran Khan had won three National Assembly seats – NA-1 Peshawar, NA-56 Rawalpindi and NA-71 Mianwali. He lost from NA-122 Lahore to PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq. However, the PTI leaders say that Khan had made up his mind to keep NA-56 Rawalpindi while he would vacate NA-1 Peshawar and NA-71 Mianwali.
If vacated, NA-1 would be a piece of cake as Imran Khan’s party is set to form government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, it would be a herculean task to re-capture either of seats won from Punjab where the rival party of the PTI – the PML-N is going to form a government with a two-thirds majority.
“Though there is no official decision taken yet, but I understand that Khan has made up his mind to vacate NA-71 and NA-1. He would keep NA-56 which is a strategic decision,” said Faisal Javed Khan, PTI Deputy Secretary Information, while talking to Pakistan Today.
The decision to retain NA-56 is logical as the PML-N would make all out efforts to reclaim the honour it had lost on May 11 when Imran Khan had defeated Hanif Abbasi with a huge margin.
Rawalpindi has long been termed a fort of Nawaz Sharif. But the PTI turned tables on the PML-N candidates by making a clean-sweep in across Rawalpindi on May 11.
PTI sources revealed that Ayla Malik, who had campaigned vigorously in absence of Imran Khan in Mianwali District, is now putting pressure on Imran not to vacate NA-71 seat, because around a dozen PTI leaders would want to contest from there.
“As soon as Ayla heard that Imran Khan had made up his mind to vacate NA-71 Mianwali seat, she rushed to visit Imran Khan at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital just two days back and briefed him on the situation in Mianwali – Imran Khan’s hometown. She insisted Khan not to vacate NA-71. She said that that if Khan vacates this seat, they would lose this seat and as soon as Khan decides to vacate this seat, many aspirants would jump into the fray and those who would be denied the party ticket would contest as independents – leaving the party disintegrated into many factions,” said a source privy to the discussions ongoing in the party hierarchy.
Imran Khan had bagged record votes on May 11 as he clinched 132,283 votes as compared to Obaidullah Shadikhel’s 72,859. This was a third consecutived defeat to Shadikhel since 2002 polls.
The source added that those who were aspirants for the seat included Jamal Ahsen Khan, Attaullah Khan Issakhelvi, Maj General (r) Rafiullah, Major (r) Rafiullah and Col (r) Hassan Niazi. Meanwhile, Jahangir Khan Tareen may also jump into the fray.
“Imran Khan wants Ayla Malik to contest by-polls and she is the only one who can clinch this seat. But being a woman, she is not confident as the traditional culture of male chauvinism may not go well with her candidature,” the source added.
The source said that Imran Khan may choose someone from Kalabagh family to retain this seat if necessary.
The PML-N may field Humair Hayat Rokheri while Obaidullah Shadikhel may field his son.
Moreover, Imran Khan’s cousin Inamullah Khan Niazi would also try to exploit the situation into his favour.
This infighting would give a boost to the chances of the PML-N to take advantage of the situation. However, the PML-N is also facing some challenges.
“In order to snub the long queue of hopefuls, Ayla Malik issued a statement last week to the local media houses of Mianwali, stating that Imran Khan had decided not to vacate NA-71,” the source added.
The situation is not different even in the PML-N camp. A PML-N leader told Pakistan Today that the PML-N camp was also worried as Shadikhel wanted not to contest election this time around fearing another defeat within one-month time as Khan’s popularity in across Mianwali was still touching skies.
“After suffering so many defeats, Shadikhel is not willing to vie for by-polls. However, the Rokheri family want to pitch Humair Hayat Rokheri as after joining of PTI by Amjad Ali Khan, the son of Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, there is no future chance for Humair to win NA-72,” the source added.
The source added that Tareen could also win as the people of Mianwali would not allow a stranger to represent them. So Khan would have to take a wise decision.
Now, there is not a single individual among PTI leaders who could win NA-56 Rawalpindi for Imran where he faced bitter challenge from PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi. Though Abbasi was being questioned by the voters for his absence in the past five years, the PML-N candidate gave a tough time to Imran Khan.
On May 11, the loudmouthed Abbasi had bagged 67,167 votes as compared to Imran Khan who clinched the seat securing 80,425 despite rigging tactics adopted by Abbasi. The polling in Pindi had also cost the PTI the lives of its three workers who were allegedly killed in election-related violence. Vacating this seat may cost the PTI dearly.