Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan will contest for all 33 seats in the upcoming National Assembly by-elections set to take place on March 16, the party has announced — becoming the first person in the country's history to run for a sizeable number of seats.
In a press conference after the party's core committee meeting in Lahore on Sunday, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: "Imran Khan will be PTI's candidate for all constituencies that [are up for grabs] and our [ex-]MNAs, who were earlier elected for those seats will be covering candidates."
The move will likely pile up pressure on the ruling coalition as if the PTI chief successfully wins a majority of the seats, it might dent the government's popularity and give the Khan-led party an edge in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections — expected to take place in the next three months.
The embattled government is under severe criticism from the masses as inflation is at a record high and there seems no respite in sight, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme also at a stall.
The NA seats had fallen vacant earlier this month when NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf accepted the resignations of PTI lawmakers and Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rashid.
The PTI resigned en masse in April last year after the ouster of Imran Khan as the prime minister, but only 11 resignations were accepted in July. Later, as the party tried to stage a comeback to the house, the speaker began accepting their resignations — and in a couple of days, he accepted 113 more, including the 33.
In October last year, the former prime minister also set a record when he won six NA seats for the PTI in a by-election that was seen as a direct contest between the former ruling party and the current ruling coalition of the Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) parties, which also grabbed two seats.
"The PTI will remain on the political ground and seek the help of the masses. When the people got a chance in July last year, despite our opponents being in government, they ensured our mandate and [made] Imran Khan victorious," Qureshi said.
"The nation will give a clear message on March 16: the nation completely trusts in the leadership of Imran Khan and it stands with the PTI. The people will also voice their reservations against the group that's been imposed on us," he added.