According to internal sources within the PML-N, the party led by Raja Riyaz is contemplating the issuance of tickets to defectors from PTI, particularly those who played a significant role in facilitating the rise of the opposition under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif during the April 2022 political upheaval. However, PML-N leader Maryam Aurangzeb has asserted that no conclusive decisions have been made, dismissing the ongoing speculations as mere assumptions.
Raja Riyaz, once an opposition leader under the Shehbaz government, joined the PML-N, and now, the party is considering nominating him as a candidate. Besides, there is strong support for Talaal Chaudhry, known for his unwavering loyalty to the party from Jaranwala (Faisalabad). He is viewed as a robust contender in the constituency.
During the tenure of Justice Saqib Nisar, Talaal Chaudhry faced a five-year disqualification for contempt of court, a penalty he willingly accepted. Now, he has expressed his opposition to participating in elections under the current circumstances and has not submitted nomination papers from any other constituency.
Raja Riyaz, hailing from Faisalabad, has been given a place in the party where Rana Ehsan Afzal Khan was also nominated as the party’s candidate. Rana Ehsan Afzal Khan, the former member of the National Assembly, served as Minister of State for Commerce and Finance during Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s premiership.
The ongoing discussions and debates surrounding this issue have revealed that a party leader finds it challenging to robustly defend his candidacy, whereas Raja Riyaz is considered a stronger candidate. Farkhul Tafwee is the final choice from NA-61.
Farkhul Tafwee is the descendant of Chaudhry Altaf Hussain, who served as the Governor of Punjab during Benazir Bhutto’s tenure as Prime Minister. Faiz Chaudhry, the cousin of Farkhul Tafwee, is a possible opponent as he can contest elections on a People’s Party ticket. He is the son of Abdullah Shah Bhakri.
The PML-N is also fielding Ahmad Hussain Dhera from Layyah. His potential competitor is Haroon Sultan Bakhari, who may contest elections on a People’s Party ticket. He is the son of Abdullah Shah Bhakri.
Moreover, Aamir Farooq Khosa is representing Muzaffargarh on the PML-N platform, and his possible challenger could be Khwaja Shiraz, who might contest elections on a PTI ticket. Interestingly, Khwaja Shiraz was once associated with PTI but parted ways with Imran Khan’s government, citing dissatisfaction with its performance.
Notably, other PTI defectors, including Rana Qasim Noon (Multan), Abdul Ghaffar Wattoo (Bahawalnagar), Sami-ul-Hassan Gillani (Bahawalpur), Riaz Mazarai (Dera Ghazi Khan), Afzal Dhandla (Bhakkar), Syed Mobeen Ahmed (Rahim Yar Khan), and Aamir Gopang (Muzaffargarh), have joined the PML-N. However, it appears that Asim Nazir, a former female member of the National Assembly, has no intention of contesting elections again. Instead, she has been accommodated with a reserved seat, continuing her association with the PML-N.
The party’s strategic inclusion of these defectors from PTI could potentially reshape the electoral landscape, introducing experienced politicians and former PTI members into the PML-N fold. However, the final decisions on ticket distribution are yet to be formally announced, leaving room for speculation and anticipation.