PESHAWAR, Jan 29: The much-awaited intra-party elections of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) were postponed in major districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday when clashes erupted between the old guards and new entrants to the party.
The intra-party elections of PTI in Peshawar district and its five cantonment towns were postponed indefinitely when two groups of workers clashed over alleged rigging at Swan Restaurant in Hayatabad Township where the polls were being held.
Eyewitnesses said that supporters of one group resorted to firing in the air when their rivals objected to their alleged rigging.
They said that Peshawar district had 1,260 voters in 92 union councils and four cantonments and each voter was required to cast 48 votes for as many candidates in the intra-party’s elections.
They said that the electoral lists were full of errors and the party slots, written in front of the candidates’ names, were so small that it was hard to read the same. It created confusion in the minds of voters, they added.
Sources said that in the absence of computerised national identity cards it was difficult for the election officers to verify the identity of voters.
The old activists of PTI alleged that armed supporters of their rival group, led by former leaders of the Pakistan people’s Party, tried to rig the elections. They said that they boycotted the elections to avoid bloodshed.
Sources said that the battle for power between the old guard and new entrants in the party had been continued for the last one year.
Asad Qaisar, former provincial president of PTI, is leading the group of old workers.
Mr Qaisar, who is a candidate for the slot of PTI provincial president, has fielded Dr Inayatullah Chamkani and Zafarullah Khattak for the slots of president and general secretary of Peshawar district respectively.
MPA Pervez Khattak, who is contesting against Mr Qaisar, backs Yasin Khalil and Younas Zaheer for the slots of PTI Peshawar president and general secretary respectively.
Both groups accused each other for sabotaging the elections. The candidates for different party’s slots told Dawn that they had reservations at printing of ballot papers for the elections and conveyed their complaints to the district, provincial and central election commission of the party but to no avail.
However, the new entrants in PTI rejected all the allegations. “We are supporting Imran Khan because he is the only hope in these trying times. Election is a democratic process which must be allowed to take place within the party,” a candidate from Pervez Khattak’s panel said.
In Mardan, the Intra-party elections of PTI were also postponed when two groups of workers scuffled during the polling process.
One of the groups titled ‘Inqilabi’ is led by Ghafar Mohmand, Brig (retired) Ismail Khan and Nasir Khan while the second panel titled ‘Nazriyati’ is backed by Mohammad Atif Khan, Alam Khan and Mujahid Khan.
PTI district election commissioner Advocate Sabzali Khan postponed the elections when some armed workers attacked the polling stations at around 2pm. Both the groups accused each other of sabotaging the intra-party elections.
Later, the Ghafar group addressed an emergency press conference and rejected postponement of intra-party polls by the election commissioner.
The group leaders demanded of PTI leadership to count the polled votes, which were handed over to official City police station in sealed boxes after the attack.
On the other hand, Atif group demanded fresh elections and lauded the elections commissioner for postponement of intra-party polls.
In Charsadda too, PTI intra-party elections were postponed after supporters of rival groups levelled allegations of rigging against each other.
The polls were in progress at a local hotel when supporters of Tahir Khan Omarzai, a candidate of Pervaiz Khattak group, alleged that backers of his rival candidate Zahoor Khan were casting bogus votes. The supporters of both groups exchanged hot words and chanted slogans against each other. The party’s election commission postponed the elections.
In Chitral, Abdul Latif was elected district president of PTI in the intra-party elections. PTI convener Mohammad Qasim and district election commissioner Altaf Gauhar told a press conference that the intra-party elections were held in a peaceful atmosphere.
They said Israrud Din was elected PTI district general secretary. Haji Sultan Mohammad and Rahmat Ghazi were elected presidents of Chitral and Mastuj sub-divisions respectively.