MULTAN: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi is a favourite candidate for Punjab chief minister’s slot if PTI sweeps the general elections scheduled to be held on July 25. NA-156 (earlier NA-155) is a stronghold of PTI in Punjab where Qureshi can get a clear cut victory as around 15 notable political leaders of the constituency have joined the party. However, as per the new delimitation of electoral constituencies, few areas of NA-156 also fall under NA-155 where PTI’s Amir Dogar is contesting the elections.
After the Zia era, NA-156 remained the stronghold of PML-N and its candidates won in every election except the 2013 general polls when Shah Mahmood Qureshi won from this constituency. In 2013, Rana Mahmoodul Hassan of PML-N was not supported by Arain clan and was thus defeated by Shah Mahmood Qureshi by only a small margin.
NA-156 is the most important constituency of Multan District where castes are a decisive factor for victory of any candidate. People belonging to six major castes reside in NA-156, while minorities also live in the area. The constituency includes 80% urban population and 20% rural. The total registered voters of NA-156 are 444,724 of which 24,149 are male and 202,575 are females.
As many as 312 polling stations are established in the area where voters can cast their ballots. Among these polling stations, 153 are for males, 136 for females and 23 are combined.
PTI Multan General Secretary Nadeem Qureshi, who is contesting polls from PP-216 against Haji Ahsanuddin Qureshi of PML-N, told The Express Tribune that Shah Mahmood Qureshi has chosen this constituency as it has the maximum urban population where literacy rate is high and most of the people in the area are between 25 to 35 years of age. PTI considers the youth as its main support, he said.
NA-156 is the only constituency of Multan where the majority of the people are Urdu-speaking. MQM-Pakistan has also filed its candidate for the area, while Pak Sar Zameen has also nominated Karamat Qureshi to contest the polls.
Qureshi’s direct link with sufism and his being custodian of throne of Sufi Saint Bahauddin Zikriya is also making him popular among the followers of brailvi school of thought.
In PP-217, PML-N has given ticket to Tasneem Kausar to win the support of Arain cast. Ansari clan of the area supports Pakistan Peoples Party which has given ticket to Babu Nafees Ansari but later on withdrew its ticket and gave to Shakil Labar. However, to win the support of Ansari clan, the PML-N has given ticket to Amir Saeed Ansari against PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi in NA-156.
In PP-213, Barrister Waseem Khan Badozai of PTI is contesting polls against Mohammad Ali Khokar of PML-N. Khokar, a two time MPA, is former chairman of the Multan Development Authority.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also contesting polls on the seat of PP-217 against Salman Naeem, a popular candidate among youth and a successful businessman.
Naeem wanted to get a PTI ticket but was denied by Shah Mahmood Qureshi so he is now contesting polls as an independent. PTI is divided into two groups after the denial of ticket to Salman Naeem.
Similarly, NA-156 is also of great importance because of development work done by PML-N in the area. At least 60% share of the Metro Bus project, worth Rs35 billion, was kept in NA-156 only to strengthen political grounds. Moreover, around Rs2 billion were paid to people whose shops, houses and property were demolished for construction and to increase the road width.
To earn votes, PML-N candidates are focusing on development works done in the previous five years, while PTI is focusing on provision of jobs to the youth and the strengthening of institutions.
The voters in NA-156 are confused about bargaining with candidates on various issues. Ali Murtaza, an undecided voter, said there are various issues that need to be addressed. Prior to general elections, political leaders promise to resolve matters, but vanish after winning elections.
He said that it is difficult to bargain with political leaders on different problems of the constituency such as education, reconstruction of schools and establishment of a water filtration plants etc.
Another voter, Hassan Ali, said both PML-N and PTI have selected candidates who follow the typical political culture and visit their area only at a time when they need votes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2018.