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Imran Khan. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan in a surprise move has announced he will contest bypolls in nine seats of the National Assembly.

The seats were declared vacant by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after Speaker of the National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf accepted the resignations of nine PTI Members of the National Assembly (MNAs).

The Election Commission of Pakistan has also released the schedule for bypolls according to which election will be held on these vacant seat on September 25.

The announcement that Imran himself would contest on these seats first came from PTI’s official Twitter account, and was later confirmed by the party’s Senior Vice President ex-Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference.

Election a costly business in Pakistan

According to PTI sources, Imran Khan’s decision to contest simultaneously on all nine seats came after the PTI members showed little interest in the party tickets, since they have already tendered resignations from the assembly and now contesting again on these vacant seats and then tendering resignations once again would be akin to wasting money and energy in a futile exercise.

At the same time, however, the party does not want to leave the ground open for the rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and allies, therefore it is decided that Imran Khan himself would contest on all these seats, they said.

Fighting elections in Pakistan is an expensive exercise. It involves huge mobilisation of voters, expenses of millions of rupees, corner meetings and public gatherings. The candidate has to bear most of these expenses.

Imran Khan in a meeting with journalists a day earlier said, “Elections would be held this year, the government parties want to single me out but I would fight against the rulers at every platform.”

PTI plans 'big embarrassment' for ECP

When asked what would be his strategy if he wins on more than one seat, he said, “I would retain one seat and quit the remaining eight. In this way the Election Commission would have to conduct bypolls on those seats again which would be a big embarrassment for the institutions and we shall do whatever in our capacity to force them to announce general elections in the country,” he said.

Disqualification out of question

Regarding his party’s disqualification in the wake of the recent verdict passed by the ECP he said, “The government alliance’s plans to disqualify me would never see the light of the day.” He said appointing Sikandar Sultan Raja (the current Chief Election Commissioner) was his government’s ‘second’ big mistake. When asked what the first mistake was he said he would disclose that later.

About foreign funding allegations, he said, two foreign countries offered him funding in the past but he turned their offer down. Leaders with popular support cannot be eradicated, he added.

After Imran Khan’s announcement to contest the bypolls on all nine seats, netizens have reacted in different ways.

Some are of the view that the PTI chairman could not find any other suitable candidate and the PTI members are not ready to bear expenses to be incurred on the subsequent by-elections. However, the party’s supporters term this a right decision, a good lesson for the ruling alliance as well as the ECP that are hesitating to announce general elections in the country as per the demand of Imran Khan’s party.