ISLAMABAD: The political manoeuvrings within two National Assembly seats in Rawalpindi – NA 55 and NA 56 – are as complex, as dramatic, as the history of Rawalpindi itself. This garrison city has witnessed the killings of three prime ministers: Liaquat Ali Khan was gunned down in 1951 at Liaquat Bagh, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 during an election rally, and her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 by Gen Zia’s military regime.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership considers Rawalpindi a ‘mini Raiwind’ and it is seemingly confident in its ability to retain its hold. However, with a grand political alliance between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmad now in play, the PML-N may not have such an easy time.
In the past the PML-N has, indeed, been decisively victorious in the region. In 2008, its NA-56 candidate, Muhammad Hanif Abbasi, won by a huge margin (for the second time), and Rashid lost NA 55 to PML-N candidates Makhdoom Javed Hashmi in 2008 and Malik Shakeel Awan in the February 2010 by-elections.
Now, the PTI chief and Sheikh Rashid, have agreed on a seat adjustment formula to give a tough time to PML-N. According to the formula, Sheikh Rashid will support Imran on NA 56, while Imran will support the Awami Muslim League chief on NA 55.
Imran’s biggest challenger for the seat is Abbasi, while Rashid will once again face Awan.
Abbasi has close contacts with the business community of Rawalpindi. However, he is currently facing serious charges in different courts for his alleged involvement in the ephedrine scam. Awan, on the other hand, has started a campaign which has caused rifts amongst party workers.
Sheikh Rashid is perhaps the most well-known politician of Bhabra Bazaar. After facing three defeats at the hands of the PML-N in a city where he had been victorious five times, he is now back with a vengeance and this time, he has Imran on his side. He was undefeated until 2002, and is very familiar with the voters and dynamic of the city. Furthermore, his role in the development of the city is widely acknowledged – he is often referred to as the Sir Syed of Rawalpindi, for having established numerous educational institutions.
And while PPP heavyweights are conspicuous by their absence, The Jamaat-e-Islami seems to be playing for keeps.
Although there are a number of madrassas in NA 55, mostly affiliated with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, the JI has also considerable presence. It has fielded Raza Ahmad Shah from NA 56, where it enjoys a strong vote-bank. It also considers two provincial constituencies, PP 13 and 14, as its strongholds.
According to sources, Sheikh Rashid has close contacts with these religious parties. In addition, the peers of Eid Gah Sharif and Mohra Sharif hold significant sway and are said to favour Sheikh Rashid.
And yet, despite the alliance, analysts say the PML-N‘s vote-bank is still strong. Its development work, carried out in the last five years, may gain them enough support to even foil the Sheikh Rashid- Imran Khan combine.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (PML-Q)
Agha Riaz-ul-Islam (PPP)
Retained by Sheikh Rashid. He contested as an independent candidate and later joined PML-Q.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (PML-Q)
Sardar Shoukat Hayat (PPP)
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad also won NA-55, which he retained. By-elections were held on January 15, 2003. Muhammad Hanif Abbasi of MMA emerged as the winner. For details see 2002 By-election results.
Hanif Abbasi (MMA)
Sheikh Rashid Shafiq (PML-Q)
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (contested as independent candidate and later joined PML-Q) won this seat and another National Assembly seat, NA-55 Rawalpindi 6, which he retained. By-elections were held on January 15, 2003. Muhammad Hanif Abbasi of MMA emerged as the winner.
Javed Hashmi (PML-N)
Aamer Fida Paracha (PPP)
Javed Hashmi also won NA-123 and NA-149, he retained the latter. By-elections were held on June 26, 2008. Haji Pervaiz Khan of PML-N emerged victorious. The seat fell vacant after Khan’s resignation following the examination scandal. Malik Shakeel Awan of PML-N was elected in by-elections held on February 24, 2010. For details see 2008 By-election results.
Hanif Abbasi (PML-N)
Advocate Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan (PPP)
Haji Pervaiz Khan (PML-N) Runner up:
Ijaz Khan Jazi (IND)
Makhdoom Javed Hashmi also won NA-123 and NA-149, he retained the latter. By-elections were held on June 26, 2008. Haji Pervaiz Khan of PML-N emerged victorious. The seat fell vacant after Haji Pervaiz Khan’s resignation following the examination scandal. Malik Shakeel Awan of PML-N won the seat in by-elections held on February 24, 2010. For details see 2008 By-election results.
Malik Shakeel Awan (PML-N)
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (AML)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2013.