All eyes on PML-N, PTI’s battle royale today

Imran Khan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi headline marquee event, Chaudhry Nisar and Shiekh Rasheed round up other contests

Shahzad Anwar July 26, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Residents and political workers in the twin cities are gearing up for polling day after what proved to be hectic election campaigns for their respective candidates.  After seeing some major ups and downs over the past five years, a cut-throat competition is expected between the PML-N and the PTI.

The run-up to the elections has seen major incidents with both the leading political parties in the twin cities of Islamabad of Rawalpindi.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has had to see its top leaders including former party supremo Nawaz Sharif and local leader Hanif Abbasi get disqualified and thrown in jail. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) saw its efforts to block scrutiny of its accounts crumble.

The arrest and disqualification of Abbasi, a PML-N candidate for the National Assembly from NA- 60 Rawalpindi, ignited renewed allegiance amongst diehard party workers. Moreover, the subsequent suspension of elections in the constituency — despite efforts by Abbasi’s rival, Awami Muslim League (AML) to keep the elections on — means there is complete calm in this constituency.

Despite that, there is tough competition on some other seats in the twin cities. Least of these is in NA-53 Islamabad-II where prime minister hopeful and PTI Chairman Imran Khan is contesting against former premier, PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with experts predicting a close fight.

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In NA-52, PML-N’s candidate and former Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry is a strong candidate. He is up against PTI’s Raja Khurram Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Afzal Khokhar with a close fight expected.

In NA-54, PTI’s Asad Umar is facing off against PML-N Anjum Aqeel, Mian Aslam of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Raja Imran Ashraf of PPP and Hafeezur Rehman Tippu.

Umer had bagged this constituency in 2013 when it was majorly composed of urban areas but this year the vote in this constituency is divided over rural and urban areas.

Key constituencies in Rawalpindi division include NA-57 Murree where a tough competition is expected between Abbasi and PTI’s Saddaqat Abbasi.  In NA-58 Gujjar Khan, there are 10 candidates in the running, But there are three main candidates including PPP candidate and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Others vying for the seat include PML-N’s Raja Javed Akhlas and PTI’s Chauhdhry Azeem.

In NA-59, 10 candidates, including the former interior minister and PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is contesting the elections as an independent candidate with his now infamous electoral symbol ‘jeep’.

The PML-N has not cut any corner to their former minister and has fielded Engineer Qamarul Islam against him. Islam, however, was arrested by the national accountability bureau (NAB) for his alleged role in the Saf Pani corruption case.

The third prominent candidate is PTI’s Sardar Ghulam Sarwar who is expected to provide the main challenge to Nisar.

In NA-61 Rawalpindi V, a close contest is expected between PTI’s Amir Kiyani and PML-N’s Malik Ibrar.

The PML-N has awarded four tickets to close family members of Senator Chaudhry Tanveer Khan — considered a trustworthy aide of Nawaz and its main support in Rawalpindi after Nisar’s departure— with two of his sons, nephew and niece’s husband are running for four different constituencies including a national assembly and three provincial seats of the garrison city.

Similarly, in NA-62, Senator Tanveer’s elder son Barrister Danyal Chaudhry is contesting the national assembly seat against the head of AML Shiekh Rasheed Ahmed. His younger brother Usama Chaudhry is running on the provincial assembly seat PP-14 against Muhammad Basharat Raja of PTI, who has twice served as a provincial minister.

Chaudhry Sarfraz Afzal, a nephew of Tanveer and the son of former Rawalpindi district chairman Chaudhry Afzal Khan, is contesting the provincial assembly seat PP-13 against Amjad Chaudhry of PTI.

His brother-in-law Raja Arshad Mehmood is also contesting for another provincial assembly seat PP-11.

Some political analysts suggest that if the PML-N candidates in PP-13 and PP-13 fail to attract sufficient votes, it will also affect the results of NA-61 since both the provincial constituencies partially and completely fall under it. Handing a national assembly ticket to Danyal and handing former MNA Shakeel Awan a provincial assembly ticket had created a rift within the party, particularly former MPA Ziaullah Shah.

Ahmed had successfully won two seats in 2002 however his nephew, Sheikh Rashid Shafique, could not emulate his uncle and lost the seat in by-elections held right after the general elections. In 2008, Ahmed’s luck worsened and he lost both the seats. However, he regained them in 2013 and expects to keep it this time around.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2018.


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