Former premier Imran Khan's party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) found itself embroiled in fresh controversy after it denied a statement by one of its own leaders, who had claimed that Imran Khan would not contest the upcoming intra-party polls for the slot of party chairman and that he had picked someone to contest instead.
Dawn newspaper reported that while the party did not directly name new Senior Vice President Sher Afzal Khan Marwat, it was clear that the clarification through its official social media account was aimed at remarks made by him earlier in the day.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is set to conduct intra-party elections within the 20-day time frame set by the election commission to retain the 'bat' as its electoral symbol, ahead of general elections scheduled to be held on February 8.
Barrister Gohar Khan will be the candidate for PTI's chairmanship, Senior Vice-President Sher Afzal Marwat said on Tuesday, hours after Khan, 71, reportedly decided against retaining the top post due to legal hurdles as the party heads towards internal polls, Geo News reported.
Khan remains behind bars in Rawalpindi's Adiala jail and is entangled in several legal battles.
Despite Marwat's announcement, the PTI had claimed that there were no such plans for Imran to step down from his position.
The PTI, in a statement on X, strongly rebutted the "speculation" over the election of a new party chairman. "Discussions are ongoing on all the important issues regarding the holding of intra-party elections," it added.
Although several party leaders had confirmed that Khan would not be contesting the intra-party elections, they had claimed that the final candidate would be announced later on.
But Marwat, the party's new face in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, stuck to his guns in the face of the party's denial, and in response, took to X to say: "Whatever I have said in my media talk about the intra-party election is correct. The decisions were taken by the PTI chairman in the presence of Senator Ali Zafar, Barrister Gohar Umair Niazi and myself," he said on Wednesday.
If true, the development will mark an end to Khan's tenure at the key position since the party's formation more than two decades back, the Pakistani media commented.
The PTI's Core Committee on Monday gave formal approval to hold the intra-party polls within the time frame of 20 days given by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). If the party does not follow the orders, it will lose its bat symbol.
Khan, being a former iconic international cricketer, is considered synonymous with the (cricket) bat. (With inputs from news wire PTI)
This will be a huge development for the party as the country moves towards general elections, set to take place in February.