Lahore: Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has suffered a blow as three independent members elected to Punjab's provincial assembly backed by it have joined a rival party in the politically important province. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) managed to take eight more independent Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPA)-elect and one Member of the National Assembly (MNA)-elect, who are not backed by the PTI, on board, raising its tally in National Assembly to 80 seats and in Punjab Assembly to over 150.

In Punjab, former three-time prime minister Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz has been nominated by the PML-N for the slot of chief minister. The three PTI-backed members Punjab Assembly joined hands with Aleem Khan's Istehkham-i-Pakistan Party (IPP). After the resignation of IPP patron-in-chief Jahangir Khan Tareen, Aleem is looking after the affairs of the party that was carved out of Khan's PTI in the wake of the May 9 violence.

Aleem reportedly with the help of the powerful establishment is influencing PTI-backed independent winners in Punjab to swell its numbers. Three PTI-backed MPAs-elect -- Sardar Awais Drashik, Zahid Ismaeel Bhatta and Hafiz Tahir Qaisrani and other

independent Ghazanfar Abbas Cheena called on Aleem in Lahore and announced joining the IPP. Aleem claimed that another group of 10 to 15 MPAs-elect backed by PTI would soon also join the IPP as it had been in contact with him.

A fourth PTI-backed independent winner Ejaz Swati in Sindh has joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. So far, a total of five lawmakers-elect have left Imran Khan's party and efforts are underway to change the loyalties of more to strengthen the position of PML-N both in the Center and Punjab. Sources say that the PML-N and its ally IPP aim to gather enough independents of the PTI backed so that it does not need to depend much on the PPP in the future scheme of things.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has been nominated by his party for the slot of the prime minister. The PPP has announced supporting the PML-N in the formation of government but refused to join the Cabinet. Khan's PTI independent winners are leading the 266-member lower house (National Assembly) with 92 seats followed by PML-N 80, the PPP 54 and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) 17 seats. Shehbaz is all set to form a six-party coalition to run the government early next month.

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