As the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) flexes its muscles to elect the party’s Mayor in the federal capital, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which also has sizeable numbers in the capital, joins the race to attract independent candidates which both parties need win the coveted spot.
On the night of the elections, as early results put PTI on top, the party’s supporters held their breath and saw if their slim majority would hold. It did not. PML-N eventually emerged the leader of the pack. Neither party, however, managed to win an outright majority.
According to unofficial results, of the total 50 seats of the union council chairmen, PML-N won 19, while PTI followed with 17 seats. Independents were victorious in 13 union councils.
PTI, however, claimed that they had actually secured 23 seats, but that the results of seven union councils were later changed by the authorities.
As PML-N leaders started announcing the joining of several independent candidates to the party, PTI made counter claims of having the support of many of the winning candidates.
PTI may still have reason to be optimistic, as a majority of independent candidates belong to Nawaz Khokhar group, which is considered to be the arch rival of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Nawaz Khokhar group, who claimed to have support of 11 chairmen, is said to be in talks with the PTI to bargain for the slot of mayorship, as its support to the PML-N may be unlikely due to their rivalry with the incumbent Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Whichever way the scales turn, independents will likely be sitting with the one that eventually wears the crown.
PML-N MNA and State Minister for CADD Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry has also speeded up efforts to enlist the support of the independents. Chaudhry was put in charge of the capital’s mighty civil agency, CADD, shortly ahead of the polls. He is said to have caused quite a scene with his over-joyous demeanour at the first cabinet meeting, so much so that he was asked to tone it down. The new blue eyed boy of the prime minister may see the party’s enthusiastic support turn sour if he fails to secure the mayorship for the party.
Chaudhry has already claimed to have support of four independent candidates, though he is facing strong resistance from his own party’s dissidents.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Ashraf Gujjar, a leader of PML-N’s disgruntled group, claimed to have won five seats and said that they would support the party’s nominee for the slot of Mayorship, but he ruled out voting for “the nominee of Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Malik Abrar and Anjum Aqeel come what may”.
Sources within PTI revealed that PTI is also in close contact with independent candidates. However, when asked about their names, they said that they would rather play it close to the chest, as revealing their named might make it easier for the government to put pressure on them to win their support.
Responding to a question of whether the Khokhar group had approached the PTI leadership, they said that the party was in close touch with all independent candidates and expressed optimism that the first ever Mayor of the federal capital would be from the PTI’s ranks.
PTI MNA Asad Umer on Tuesday chaired an important meeting of his party’s newly-elected UC chairmen and claimed to have secured 23 seats, but regretted that the results of seven of the union councils had been changed by the authorities.
“We have won 16 UCs but if the results of seven more UCs are counted properly, PTI will stand at 23 seats,” Umer said, demanding a recount in these UCs.
Lashing out at the ruling party and the Election Commission of Pakistan, Umar said that despite their best efforts, PTI was still in the running for the mayor’s seat.
–HAMID KHAN WAZIR