Independent candidates falsely claim to represent PTI officially
Their posts and campaigns have gone viral on social media
Claim: Several independent candidates claim to be official and nominated ticket holders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for the 8 February election; their posts and campaigns have gone viral on social media.
Fact: Soch Fact Check’s investigation into at least seven candidates, claiming to be official PTI candidates revealed that these individuals were not the party’s official representatives. We verified their details using the chatbot on Imran Khan’s official page, as well as the official list of candidates issued by the party.
Ahead of the general elections on 8 February 2024, Imran Khan’s PTI faces obstacles with multiple key leaders and supporters behind bars, defections, and the loss of its cricket bat symbol, which has raised concerns about fair campaigning and a level playing field. Just a week before the election, Khan was given three additional sentences:
- Fourteen years in the cipher case
- Ten years in the Toshakhana case
- Seven years in a case about his marriage being ruled un-Islamic
In 2018, the PTI emerged as the single largest party in the parliament, forming governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
PTI’s electoral symbol
The Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared the intra-party polls of PTI unconstitutional on 22 December 2023, which meant the party could no longer use the ‘bat’ symbol. This move caused confusion within the party and among voters. It’s important to note that symbols play a vital role in helping voters identify political parties, especially in areas with varied literacy rates.
Ultimately, on 13 January 2024, the Supreme Court set aside the PHC order, giving a final blow to PTI by stripping it of its electoral symbol, the cricket ‘bat’.
The decision left PTI candidates in an uncertain situation as now they could only contest the elections as independent candidates with different symbols.
The confusion exacerbated with multiple unofficial PTI candidates submitting nomination papers in various constituencies, who continued to campaign as official PTI candidates even after the party issued its primary list of candidates. Yet many unofficial candidates in this election have not withdrawn their nomination papers.
The ECP’s data reflects this phenomenon, according to which 598 out of 843 PTI candidates’ nomination papers for the National Assembly were accepted, whereas the PTI actually nominated only 266 candidates for contestable NA seats as per their official list. This means that outside of the officially nominated 266 candidates, there are 332 unofficial ones contesting for seats in the national assembly.
As a result, an excess of 805 candidates are vying for seats in the provincial assembly against officially nominated candidates.
This excess of candidates who have not been nominated officially by the PTI is unusual. In a typical election, once a party announces their primary candidate list, covering candidates or those seen as substitute options drop their candidacy to prevent the vote from splitting. However, in this election, concerns about the potential harassment candidates might face, how it would affect their ability to run or if it would prevent them from running altogether have led to an excess of substitute candidates choosing not to withdraw.
This is evident in the case of Iffat Tahira Soomro, PTI’s official candidate for the constituency NA-155. On 6 February 2024, just two days before the polls, Soomro chose to withdraw her candidacy in favour of Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party’s (IPP) patron-in-chief, Jahangir Khan Tareen. While Soomro did not state that her withdrawal was a result of harassment, this sudden step-down jeopardizes PTI’s chance of success.
While Soch Fact Check cannot confirm each candidate’s current status or whether the candidates remain in the race, it is true that the number of candidates contesting outside of those who have been officially nominated by the PTI, is high.
Fact or Fiction?
Soch Fact Check investigated the social media posts and posters of PTI candidates claiming to be the party’s official candidates while campaigning with Imran Khan’s photo or the party’s flag.
To verify PTI’s official candidates for various national and provincial seats, Soch Fact Check submitted the constituency’s name to the PTI chatbot, which assists in obtaining information about candidates and the symbols allocated to them by sending a direct message to Imran Khan’s official Facebook page. We also checked the official list of candidates shared by PTI.
National assembly seats
On X, Advocate Syed Ahmed Rasheed, running for elections from NA-219 Hyderabad-II, is asking for votes in PTI and Imran Khan’s name, despite Mustansir Billah, who has been allocated as the official PTI candidate for this constituency with the sheep symbol.
Advocate Maqsood Mubashar Awan, claiming to be PTI’s ticket holder from NA-70 Sialkot-I, can be seen appealing for votes on X by sharing his poster. However, the official PTI candidate for this constituency is Hafiz Hamid Raza.
Provincial assembly seats
In PK-81 Peshawar-X constituency, Taimoor Hassan Khan, with the symbol of an electric heater, is falsely portraying himself as the official PTI candidate. However, the legitimate PTI candidate for this area is Syed Qasim Ali Shah, who can be identified by the symbol of a traffic signal.
We also found a TikTok video by Taimoor Hassan Khan urging voters to support him and make Imran Khan successful.
In PP-30 Gujrat-IV, Tanveer Ahmed is the party’s designated, official candidate with the symbol of a letter box. However, another candidate, Mubashir Majid has been campaigning under the symbol of a fire engine, and falsely presenting himself as the official contender. A user shared Majid’s campaign poster on X (formerly Twitter) which features a photo of Imran Khan along with his own.
Soch Fact Check also found a poster of a candidate, Haji Muhammad Ali Adnan, falsely representing himself as the official candidate from PP-155 Lahore-XI while the actual candidate for the constituency is Imtiaz Mehmood, who is contesting elections with the table tennis bat symbol.
In PP-169 Lahore-XXV, Mian Mehmood Ur Rasheed is the official PTI candidate with the symbol of a racket. However, Mian Amjad Iqbal, posing as a PTI candidate with the symbols of a chair and table, is campaigning deceitfully.
In PP-170 Lahore-XXVI, Mian Muhammad Haroon Akbar is designated as the official PTI candidate with the symbol of a racket, but Bahadur Khan falsely presents himself as the authorised candidate.
The video posted by Taimoor Hassan Khan on TikTok gained 9,973 likes and 168 shares.
On X, advocate Maqsood Mubashar Awan’s poster gained significant traction with 192,200 views, 369 likes and 225 reposts.
Conclusion: Despite PTI’s official list of nominated candidates which includes 266 candidates for the National Assembly and 593 for the Provincial Assembly, this election cycle bears witness to a large number of PTI candidates who are contesting in the election even though they were not nominated officially. While these candidates can continue to run for the upcoming elections, their campaign materials falsely represent them as the PTI’s official nominees.
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