January 15, 2024
ISLAMABAD – CHAKWAL: After sensing the danger of losing its iconic symbol ‘bat’, the embattled Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has chalked out a plan B: forging an alliance with its splinter PTI-Nazriati group to use the ‘batsman’ symbol for its candidates, Dawn learnt on Friday.
Sources privy to the developments said that an accord had been reached between the two parties after negotiations.
“After the Election Commission of Pakistan went to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Peshawar High Court, the party’s leadership mulled over the option for an alternative electoral symbol,” a source in the PTI told Dawn. “The need was aggravated after remarks passed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa during a hearing on Friday.”
PTI officials believe that the ‘bat’ and ‘batsman’ symbols are similar, making it easier for voters to identify with PTI, the source explained.
“The chairman of PTI-Nazriati, Akhtar Iqbal Dar, has agreed to issue tickets to PTI’s candidates on the symbol of batsman,” another source said.
The PTI leadership took the decision to woo the Nazriati group, considering the possibility that the Election Commission of Pakistan would grant separate symbols to each party candidate, which would confuse voters.
“If the bat is denied, the PTI could inculcate easily in the voters’ minds to stamp on the batsman,” the source said.
Interestingly, the PTI initially never wanted the “batsman” symbol allocated to its splinter group. It urged the ECP in June 2022 not to allot the symbol to PTI-Nazriati, arguing that it would create confusion among the voters. However, the ECP did not entertain PTI’s request.
The sources could not confirm the conditions under which PTI-Nazriati agreed to issue its tickets to PTI’s candidates.
When contacted, a PTI-Nazriati official, who answered the call on the cell number of party chairman Akhtar Iqbal Dar, refused to comment. “We cannot comment on this issue right now,” he said.
A spokesman for the PTI said the party was ready to accommodate some of the PTI-Nazriati candidates, hoping that its list of demands would not be a long one.
However, he said the party would make a final decision only after the Supreme Court’s decision, which is expected to be announced today (Saturday). He said the party hoped to get a favourable decision from the apex court.
This new possible arrangement between the two parties could spell trouble for those PTI-Nazriati candidates who had already got election tickets in constituencies where the PTI is fielding its candidates.
For example, in Chakwal’s NA-58 constituency, PTI-Nazriati has already issued a ticket to Chaudhry Imran Qaisar Abbas, whereas veteran columnist and former MNA Ayaz Amir has also submitted papers from the same constituency.
Under this new arrangement and in case of adverse verdict by the apex court, the PTI-Nazriati’s candidate in NA-58 is likely to be made a scapegoat. And if he manages to submit his ticket today (Saturday) before the Supreme Court’s decision, it will bring trouble for Ayaz Amir and Ali Nasir Bhatti.
Mr Abbas told Dawn on Friday night that he and Mohammad Ejazul Haq had got NA-58 and PP-20 tickets, respectively, which they would submit to the returning officers on Saturday morning.
ECP ‘has two lenses’
PTI-Nazriati was established in January 2012 after Mr Dar developed differences with PTI founder Imran Khan, claiming that the PTI had become a party of turncoats. As per the election schedule, candidates are bound to submit party tickets before Jan 13.
“The deadline has been approached, but our symbol has not been decided yet,” a PTI leader said, fearing that PTI’s candidates might not be able to submit tickets to returning officers.
Talking to the media in Islamabad on Friday, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Khan, looking dejected over the possible danger of losing the bat symbol, said that it was a constitutional requirement that every political party must have an electoral symbol.
“We have conducted elections (intra-party) at least, whereas not a single political party out of 175 parties conducted elections at all,” he claimed. “But the ECP has two lenses. With one lens, it looks at all other 175 parties, while it looks at the PTI with the second lens.”
He added that the symbol of not a single political party was snatched on such grounds that it was snatched from PTI. “The ECP never brought such reputed lawyers in the Supreme Court as it has brought against the PTI,” he said, adding that if the PTI were denied an electoral symbol, the world would not recognise the upcoming polls.