The Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to set July 17 as the date for the by elections of the 20 seats vacated by PTI’s dissident MPAs in Punjab has led to a flurry of activity and consultations within political circles. One of the major questions going forward—for all sides involved—will be the fate of the now-disqualified MPAs from the Punjab Assembly.

For PML-N and its allies in government, the critical question of selecting candidates will now be further complicated through these disqualifications. Will the party offer tickets to these disqualified candidates, considering the reason for their exit from the provincial assembly was support for PML-N’s Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz? This might cause disgruntlement in existing party workers and those that have fought on PML-N tickets in the past.

But then again, even if the allies bite the bullet and incorporate all 20–25—five of those disqualified were on reserved seats—has the support base of these candidates been detrimentally affected as a result of the recent politicking both inside and outside parliament? While many of these candidates had been independent, increasing polarisation in the country might harm, or even help the cause in some voter bases.

For PTI, there is a similar question that it must ponder; replacing these candidates with those that will win.The party’s own leadership has admitted on multiple occasions that it allowed for these (and other) candidates to enter the party to increase its support base. But if it is now moving away from the ‘electable’ model, will it be able to secure crucial support in the non-urban centres of Punjab?

With a little over a month left in the by-elections, these decisions will have to be made quickly. The return for PTI to its ideological roots will not be easy, and it remains to be seen whether it actually implements this new strategy or simply pays lip service for the workers and then goes out and finds the runner ups in these constituencies to make life harder for PML-N. PML-N is similarly at a crossroads; old workers and candidates might look towards PTI or an independent candidature to secure their own positions. All eyes will be on Punjab for the next two months.