ISLAMABAD - Of the 110 registered political parties, as many as 107 political parties, which were on paper of late, are now in the run to try their luck in the 2018 general elections slated for July 25. Apart from these parties, which also include major political players including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party, a huge number of contesting candidates are also in the run. The largest number of political parties, most of them new in the electoral battle, and a huge number of independents, are being seen as the vote spoilers. How they would fare in their electoral struggle is yet to be seen. Under this category, the PML-N, the PTI and the MQM-P are among main political parties which had faced issues in awarding party tickets. The other category of candidates includes those who did not need election ticket of any party essentially because they consider themselves as electable.

On the other hand, a cursory look at the complete list of candidates issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan suggests that the PML-N remains the target of many rival political parties and independent candidates. A total of 1,696 candidates are in the run for 141 National Assembly seats of Punjab and of these, 747 are in the run as independent candidates from the province.

Apart from the independent candidates, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi is also sponsoring more than 550 candidates, mostly independents.

The number of its candidates is even more than those fielded by the religio-political parties’ alliance — the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) — with more than 180 candidates. While the total number of the TLP candidates contesting on its election symbol, crane, in Punjab alone is more than 100. The overall TLP’s number goes beyond 150 candidates across the country.

Likewise, another new entrant, the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), has fielded over 50 candidates in Punjab, and another little known religious party, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Islami, has also put up 20 candidates in Punjab.

Like other provinces, all the independent candidates in Punjab are in the run on various election symbols, yet the symbol of the jeep being used by the independent candidates has raised eyebrows in the political circles especially among the PML-N workers. On the social media, the symbol of the jeep is being branded as the one supported by the power that be. However, that apparently does not seem the case as the symbol of the jeep has been allotted to even those independent candidates who are challenging the candidates of the powerful political party such as the PTI.

The debate started following allotment of the symbol of the jeep to estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who is contesting for two NA and two Punjab Assembly seats as an independent candidate. The jeep is the most sought-after symbol of the independents across the country, particularly in Punjab.

Nisar, however, has disassociated himself from the other independent candidates contesting on the ‘eep symbol and denied formation of any group within the PML-N.

He clarified this during a news conference in Taxila in the wake of media reports that a number of PML-N leaders belonging to southern Punjab, who had returned their party tickets, will now contest the July 25 elections as independents and on the symbol of the jeep.

Maryam Nawaz in a message on Twitter has alleged that “the votes to be polled for jeep will go to khalayi makhlooq”, a reference to the “invisible forces” which, according to her father and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, are behind the alleged victimization of the PML-N and the Sharif family.

“As Mian sahab had said, it should be found out how people are being forcefully brought off from the lion symbol and being made to climb the jeep,” she tweeted from London, where she had gone with her father to look after her ailing mother Kalsoom Nawaz.

Nisar, on the other hand, clarified that he had not asked anyone to seek the symbol of the jeep, trying to suggest that it was a mere coincidence.

In Punjab’s 141 constituencies, more than 70 independent candidates are contesting polls on the symbol of the jeep. Overall, 129 candidates have been allotted the symbol throughout the country.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 23 independent candidates are contesting the polls on the jeep symbol, whereas there are 16 such candidates in Sindh and 14 in Balochistan.

Political observers believe that if lady luck favours independents on July 25, they would emerge the most powerful group in making and breaking the next government.

 

 

Independents set out to seek their fortune