Imran Khan’s momentum worrying Nawaz Sharif?

Faced with the increasing momentum being generated by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) apparently has no choice but to turn to its supreme leaders daughter and party vice-president, Maryam Nawaz, to carry out much-needed canvassing ahead of the upcoming polls to six national and provincial seats, a media report said.

By-elections for the National Assembly’s Multan seat is scheduled to be held on Sept 11, while for Faisalabad and Nankana Sahib, polls will be held on September 25, Dawn reported.

After facing humiliating defeat in the bypolls to 15 Assembly seats in the Punjab province in July that cost the party the office of the Chief Minister, the PML-N leadership appears much less enthusiastic about spearheading the election campaign.

The party candidates contesting for five of the six seats are said to be unhappy with the leadership for not holding any ‘grand’ rally led by a top party leader in their respective constituencies. They are of the view that they need their leadership to back them in order to put up a tough contest for PTI chief Imran Khan owing to his rising popularity, Dawn reported.

“On the complaint of the candidates, party Quaid Nawaz Sharif has asked his daughter Maryam to hold at least a few rallies ahead of the by-elections on the three National Assembly and as many as Punjab Assembly seats,” a party insider said.

Maryam, who led and addressed impressive rallies for the July 17 bypolls to 20 Punjab Assembly seats, is yet to express any interest in the upcoming elections, he said.

“So, on her father’s direction, she is likely to hold some rallies in these constituencies, starting from PP-241 on Thursday,” the insider said, adding that former Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, who otherwise would look after several issues the party candidates face in the bypolls, is keeping a low profile.

Speaking to Dawn, a PML-N leader from Punjab wondered why the party leadership has not shown any seriousness about the bypolls.

“The PML-N cannot afford to lose these elections as a defeat will establish that Imran Khan is stronger than the 13-party ruling alliance. Imagine, in such a scenario, who will seek PML-N tickets in Punjab in the next general elections,” he asked, and urged the leadership to spend all its energy into ensuring a victory for the party candidates.

A source also said the party leadership is apparently banking on Imran Khan’s disqualification by courts in various cases, which it believes will impact other PTI candidates as well.

Only that can be a blessing in disguise for the ruling coalition, which otherwise appears least interested in canvassing or enthusiastically contesting the bypolls, Dawn reported.

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