LAHORE - PTI making early preparations for the next elections and taking the provincial capital as its major electoral challenge, is strongly considering to field former PML-N leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi against PML-N President Nawaz Sharif from Lahore, while Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed is likely to face Shahbaz Sharif and Hammad Azhar can be a strong candidate against Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, The Nation has learnt. Sources in the PTI told this correspondent on Wednesday that top PTI leadership at this stage has not thought about fielding party chief Imran Khan against Nawaz Sharif. They informed that party leadership was strongly considering Hashmi as a suitable candidate from the provincial capital against Nawaz Sharif, as Makhdoom from Multan started his political career from Lahore being a student leader of the Punjab University and later got elected on PML-N ticket from NA-123, and also spent quite sometime in the Kot Lakhpath jail being a political prisoner of Musharraf’s authoritarian rule. Sources further stated that regarding under consideration candidates of the party from Lahore to contest PML-N’s top leadership include Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, PTI President City chapter against  Mian Shahbaz Sharif. They stated that Hammad Azhar, son of Mian Azhar, head of party’s Political Committee was being considered as a candidate against Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, while Ahsan Rasheed, PTI President Punjab could be the party option against Hamza in provincial constituency. About Imran Khan’s choice for contesting polls from Lahore, they quoting PTI chief’s close aides as saying that party chief considering NA-122 and NA-126 as his electoral choices for the next polls at the moment. Similarly, former Secretary Information PTI, Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, Mian Muhammad Azhar, Zaheer Abbas Khokhar, Sardar Kamil Umer, Farooq Amjad Mir and Shahid Zulfikar are being strongly considered by the party for launching them from NA-118, 125, 127 and 128. It may be noted here that Riaz Malik, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Naseer Bhutta and Afzal Khokhar got elected to National Assembly on PML-N tickets. While, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Umer Sohail Zia Butt are the sitting members of National Assembly from NA-122 and 126. Sources also told this scribe that party chief, Imran Khan would hold accountable the party members responsible for managing a poor rally in the City on January 29th to welcome Javed Hashmi.They said that Imran in the light of the inputs from his close aides has taken serious notice of the poor show during Hashmi’s welcome rally and decided to take to task the people responsible for it, as Lahore is being considered as the ‘thrust force’ for the success of the party in Punjab in the next elections. They quoted the senior party leaders as saying that the next elections especially in Punjab would not only be a ‘test case’ for the party’s real popularity among the masses but it would also decide the party’s permanent seat among the mainstream political forces and any failed show of force could jeopardise the party’s future.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 09-Feb-2012 here.