LAHORE - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Punjab organiser Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar has acknowledged grouping inside the party even at the district level, but expressed his determination to reunify it before next local elections, due in September.

There are five groups in Lahore: three in Sialkot; two each in Gujranwala and Faisalabad; and similar is the case in other districts of the province, Sarwar said while exclusively talking to The Nation.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan had also recently expressed serious concern over the groupings and said it needed no enemies to defeat it.

The former British parliamentarian who had renounced nationality to qualify for the office of the Punjab governor which the PML-N leadership had offered him to return the favours he had done to them during their years in exile, Mr Sarwar said: “Doing away with the groupings among the party ranks is an uphill task but I am trying my best to unite all groups for achieving the goal of reorganisation in Punjab ahead of local bodies’ polls.”

About accountability in the party and the procedure to investigate charges against a party member, he informed: “A complaint against any corrupt practice by a party member will first come to me. I will decide whether the complaint is actionable or not, in the light of the evidence provided by the complainant. If actionable, I will forward it to the Ethics and Disciplinary Committee to decide the matter in seven days.”

“Electronic evidence in the form of recorded conversation, both audio and video, is acceptable as proof to charge a member for his/her involvement in corrupt practices,” he added.

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When asked about Hafiz Farhat Abbas’ audio tape in which he admitted failing at least two party candidates in the Lahore Cantonment Board polls allegedly under the advice of former City chapter president Aleem Khan, Sarwar said: “I am not responsible what happened before May 23. However, I took disciplinary action against three party leaders after getting responsibility of provincial organiser.”

“I think the corrupt among the party ranks will try to avert the audio and video recording of any nature,” he added with a big laugh.

In another admission, Sarwar said PTI had faced foul play in most of the 120 ticket awards of Cantonment Boards which cost the party dearly. “I have to supervise six to seven thousand tickets for the upcoming local polls exercise in Punjab, which needs accountability with zero tolerance,” he added.

When asked why PTI failed to establish itself as the party of rural areas and working classes, Sarwar acknowledging this very fact and said he was focussing on the rural organisational network and strengthening party in the low-income areas of the urban centres. “I want to establish the party organisation at the union council level. Without grass root strength no political entity can claim itself a true party of the populace,” he added.

“I have appointed all the district organisers and deputy organisers of the province for reorganising the party except South Punjab which falls under the domain of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, party’s national organiser. “After making Local Government Boards in the districts for selecting party candidates for the upcoming local elections, I also formed Appellate Authority Councils comprising the limits of a provincial constituency to deal with the complaints against the party tickets.”

The decision of the Appellate Councils will be final in case the Local Boards fail to develop consensus for a ticket award, he added. On a question about the ratio of party tickets for new and old members for local polls, the PTI leader replied, “There will be no ratio or quota fixed for awarding party tickets and all the persons finalised by the local boards would be awarded tickets. I don’t make any difference between new and old members.”

Sarwar also informed PTI would start election-day duties training of the party members who would perform duties on the day of the polling inside and outside the polling stations. “We will also equip our elected candidates with the training of drafting bills,” he said.

When this scribe asked Ch Sarwar about the possible alliance of PTI with likeminded parties in local elections, he ruled out the chance of forging alliance with any party during the elections. “However, we will form coalition with likeminded parties for the formation of district councils where we lack number to do so,” he added.

About the possibilities of re-launch of Azadi March, he said, “I don’t think PTI will be going for any march in the near future. We are only focusing the upcoming local bodies’ polls. Let the Judicial Commission (JC) report comes, then the party’s core leadership would decide what course of action we should take in the light of the JC findings.” Over the possibilities of a national government, he said, “I am a democrat. But I must say this with heavy heart that democratic governments in Pakistan have inflicted more pain on the populace than the military rules.”