Pakistan's ousted prime minister Imran Khan will contest all 33 parliamentary seats in the bypolls to be held in March, his party has announced. Addressing a press conference here on Sunday evening, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) vice-chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the decision was taken during the party's core committee meeting.
"Imran Khan will be PTI's sole candidate in all 33 parliamentary seats. The decision was taken in the party's core committee meeting which was presided over by Khan at Zaman Park Lahore on Sunday," Qureshi said. On Friday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced that bypolls to 33 seats of the National Assembly will held on March 16.
Khan’s party had quit the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan parliament, en masse following his ouster from power in April last in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. However, Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf did not accept the resignations and said he needed to individually verify if the lawmakers were resigning of their own accord.
Last month, the speaker accepted the resignations of 35 PTI lawmakers, after which the ECP de-notified them. Subsequently, the speaker also accepted another 35 (and ECP de-notified them), and the remaining 43 resignations of PTI lawmakers after Khan announced returning to the National Assembly to put Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to the test of a vote of confidence.
The ECP has yet to de-notify 43 PTI lawmakers. If the ECP de-notifies the remaining 43 PTI lawmakers, Khan's party would be virtually wiped out of the National Assembly. In October last year, Khan contested eight parliamentary seats after the speaker accepted 11 resignations of the PTI lawmakers. Khan won six of them.
The federal coalition of nine parties (Pakistan Democratic Movement) has said it might not take part in the bypolls. If the PDM sticks to its decision the PTI may grab all seats without any problem. Of the 33 bypolls in lower house seats, 12 will be held in Punjab province, eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three in Islamabad, nine in Sindh, and one in Balochistan.
Earlier this month, Khan’s PTI also dissolved the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces where his party was in power, to push the Shehbaz Sharif government to call for snap polls. The PTI has already moved the court against the caretaker chief minister governor for not giving the election date in Punjab. After the dissolution of an assembly, the caretaker setup has to hold polls within 90 days under the constitution. Qureshi has said it would move the high court in KP against the governor and caretaker chief minister for not giving an election date in the province.
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