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PAT may field 200-plus candidates

LAHORE: Reconsidering its earlier boycott strategy, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has given a go-ahead to its candidates – around 200 for national and provincial assemblies – to submit nomination papers and get ready for the elections.

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According to the party sources, the PAT consideration of boycotting the elections is deflated by the Supreme Court’s decision to attach an affidavit with the nomination papers, which is legally binding, containing all the conditions of constitutional clause 62 and 63.

The PAT plan of boycott was on the basis of new nomination papers which exclude the information required under those clauses. Now, since they are back, there is no need for the boycott, say sources.

According to them, PAT chief Tahirul Qadri will not contest the next elections because he is convinced that it is almost impossible to reform the system from within. “That’s why he resigned within two years of 2002 election and went to Canada for his research work. He is still sticking to his point of view that nothing big can be achieved by being part of this system. Thus, he is staying away from the elections,” say sources.

According to them, the party will field more than 200 candidates for the national and provincial assemblies but all of them are not winnable ones. “Those, who, according to the party calculations, matter are 40 to 45 candidates in the National Assembly and almost the same number in provincial assemblies. These are the guys who have worked in their constituencies and have some personal following as well. So, the party is fielding them in the hope of performing well,” they claim.

The immediate goal of the party is to establish its relevance in Pakistan’s electoral politics, says a candidate, who is contesting this year. The party has lost contact with voters since 2002 – the last time it contested polls. It has been ages and creates national impression that PAT is no more electorally relevant.

The 2018 participation is designed to secure votes and dispel the impression of electoral irrelevance, he says, adding: “The party knows it is not going to form the government and win elections but it can prove it has a loyal vote bank.”

As for an alliance with the PTI, the party sources say they are expecting a delegation of the PTI in the next few days. The prospects for any understanding are not high given the frame of mind the PTI is in these days. “If it (PAT) asks for votes for its candidates, the PTI would naturally want it to reciprocate on some seats and withdraw its candidates.”

The PTI hardly seems to be in the position given the kind of rush it has for tickets. Also, the PAT is careful due to the kind of candidates the PTI is fielding – those coming from other parties. There is little chance of cooperation, he says, but it can’t be ruled out.

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