LAHORE - Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar is so far the only potential candidate for the slot of PTI’s Punjab president while the other aspirants are still struggling to grab support of powerful groups of the party to secure victory, say the party leaders.

Mr Sarwar has managed to garner the support of major party leader Jahangir Khan Tareen with his close associate Aleem Khan to contest the party elections for president slot as a joint candidate of one of the major groups in Imran Khan’s party. He also claimed the support of Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly and PTI’s former president for provincial capital. PTI’s first intra-party polls were held in 2013, but the party organisations were dissolved by Imran Khan in May 2015 following the recommendations of Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed Commission formed to probe rigging in the internal elections. The new intra-party polls are expected to be held next month.

The other potential candidate, Ijaz Chaudhry, can pose a challenge to Ch Sarwar if he gets the support of Shah Mehmood Qureshi who once steered the party group, which is taken away by Mr Tareen, said the party leaders talking to The Nation yesterday.

Mr Chaudhry can torpedo the boat of Mr Tareen camp if he ensures the support of Mr Qureshi on his side. He (Ijaz Chaudhry) may not win the Punjab president slot but his group can get some party offices below the provincial president. A split mandate will certainly counter Tareen’s growing influence in the party which is the wish of Shah Mehmood Qureshi. But Mr Qureshi has not made public his support for any candidate for Punjab president as yet. He may wait for visible electoral alignments for a little time before throwing his weight behind any horse for Punjab president, added the party leaders.

Ijaz Chaudhry’s camp is claiming the support of some former district presidents from south and north Punjab with additional support of party heavyweight Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and anti-Tareen camp leaders.

Hamid Khan camp which had introduced a new group among the party ranks under the name of Workers Alliance Group is also mulling fielding its own candidate for Punjab president and other positions. The group is considering to field Umer Sarfraz Cheema as its candidate for the party polls. But Hamid Khan, a close friend and supporter of Justice (r) Wajihuddin in the party if puts weight behind Ijaz Chaudhry by bringing Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the net, can defeat Jahangir Tareen’s camp in Punjab, said the party leaders.

Hamid Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi were formerly part of two opposite groups in the party under the name of Ideological and Unity camps founded during the first intra-party polls held in 2013. The Ideological was led by Javed Hashmi who parted ways with Imran Khan and the Unity was steered by Shah Mehmood Qureshi which was later grabbed from him by Mr Tareen.

Umer Sarfraz Cheema can be fielded by Hamid Khan camp with the additional support of Waleed Iqbal who is steering another group in the party under the title of Insaf Markaz.

A brief introduction of the major aspirants for the party office of Punjab is: Chaudhry Sarwar is former organiser of the party in Punjab, while Ijaz Chaudhry is former elected president of the province. Umer Sarfraz Cheema remained close to party chairman in party’s real phase of political struggle and held the position of central secretary information for several years.