ISLAMABAD: As the nation prepares for the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 8, a substantial number of candidates, close to 18,000, are gearing up to compete for general seats in both the National and provincial legislatures.
On Sunday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) unveiled its final list of candidates contesting for the National Assembly (NA) and provincial assemblies through Form-33. Among the 17,816 candidates, a significant portion, numbering 11,785, will participate independently, while 6,031 will vie for seats under the banners of their respective political parties.
Despite the Election Commission having issued a code of conduct for candidates and political parties, the extent of adherence remains uncertain. The ongoing escalation of verbal sparring among rivals adds an additional layer of uncertainty.
Several notable political figures, including former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and Asfandyar Wali, will not be participating for various reasons. Nonetheless, intense competition is anticipated in numerous constituencies.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), having been denied election symbols due to irregularities in its intra-party elections, is fielding its candidates as independents, each allotted a distinct symbol.
Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is contesting in NA-15, Mansehra, and NA-130, Lahore, facing a tough challenge from PTI’s Dr Yasmeen Rashid. Similar intense contests are expected in NA-123, Kasur, and NA-132, Lahore, where Shehbaz Sharif faces Liaquat Baloch of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).
Former President Asif Ali Zardari is contesting for NA-207 in his native constituency, Shaheed Benazirabad, against PTI-backed Sher Muhammad Rind Baloch. His son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, is contesting in three NA constituencies, facing competitors such as Attaullah Tarar of PML-N in NA-127, Punjab.
Other notable contests include Senator Yusuf Raza Gilani in NA-148, Multan, and his son Ali Moosa Gilani against Mehr Bano Qureshi in NA-151, Multan. PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafiq faces a challenging contest with PTI’s Latif Khosa in NA-122, Lahore.
Former PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan is expected to have a smooth run in NA-10, Buner, while other noteworthy contests involve Faisal Saleh Hayat, Mian Ghazanfar Gul, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, Muhammad Hanif Abbasi, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and Azra Masood in various constituencies across the country.