PTI Faces Setback in Multan, Qureshi Barred from Elections

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice President Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been disqualified from running for the upcoming general elections in his home city of Multan, after an appellate election tribunal rejected his appeal against the rejection of his nomination papers on Saturday.

Qureshi, who served as the foreign minister from 2018 to 2022 under Imran Khan’s government, had filed his nomination papers for two National Assembly and two Punjab Assembly seats in Multan. However, the returning officers (ROs) had rejected his papers on various grounds, including his failure to declare his assets and liabilities, his dual nationality, and his involvement in a murder case.

Qureshi had challenged the ROs’ decision in the appellate tribunal, but the tribunal upheld the rejection and declared him ineligible to contest the elections from Multan. The tribunal, headed by Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar, delivered the verdict after hearing the arguments of Qureshi and his opponents.

Qureshi’s disqualification is a major blow to the PTI, which is aiming to regain power in the February 8 polls. Qureshi is one of the most prominent and influential leaders of the party, and has a strong support base in Multan, where he belongs to a noble, religious and political family. He had won the NA-150 Multan-III seat in the 2018 elections with a margin of over 50,000 votes.

Qureshi still has the option to contest the elections from another constituency, as he has been cleared by the tribunal to run from the NA-214 Umarkot seat in Sindh. However, he will face a tough competition from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which has a stronghold in the province.

Qureshi’s disqualification has also sparked a debate on the role of the judiciary and the military in the electoral process, as some PTI leaders and supporters have alleged that there is a conspiracy to rig the elections against them. They have accused the opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), of influencing the ROs and the tribunal to disqualify their candidates. They have also claimed that the murder case against Qureshi is politically motivated and fabricated.

The PTI has vowed to challenge the tribunal’s verdict in the Supreme Court, and has expressed confidence that Qureshi will be allowed to contest the elections from Multan. The party has also said that it will not let the “undemocratic forces” derail the democratic process, and will continue to fight for the rights of the people.

The PML-N and the PPP, on the other hand, have welcomed the tribunal’s verdict, and have said that it is a victory of justice and the rule of law. They have also denied any involvement in Qureshi’s disqualification, and have said that he should accept the decision gracefully and respect the institutions.

The general elections in Pakistan are scheduled to be held on February 8, 2024, to elect the members of the 16th National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies. The elections are being held under a caretaker government, headed by Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, who was appointed by the president after consultation with the opposition parties.

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