LODHRAN: Local analysts and pundits expect a tough contest between Nawab Hayatullah Khan Tareen of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and independent candidate Akhtar Khan Kanju at the NA-155 by-election today.
Only seven of the 16 candidates who originally applied to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the NA-155 race are still in the running. Seven withdrew their papers early on, while Iqbal Lodhra and Rana Moeen Farid Noon recently decided to withdraw in favour of the PPP candidate. The rest are independent candidates: Kanju, Dr Kamran Abbas, Prof Latif Anser Almaroof Lajpal, Waseem Ahmad Gujjar Advocate, Syed Amin Shah and Rauf Iqbal.
Tareen won this seat in the 2008 elections, but was recently forced to resign amidst allegations he was holding a fake degree. Kanju has also previously served as MNA from this constituency.
Voter Shaukat Jan said he wouldn’t be voting for either. “Tareen has been making speeches regarding his past achievements but the people are looking towards someone new,” he said. “Both these men have ruled over this seat and done nothing but make proclamations, we want to see some real changes.”
Kanju won the seat in 2002 as a Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) candidate, while Tareen was also elected MNA from this area in 1990 on a PML-N ticket.
District Lodhran has two national seats and five provincial seats. In the 2008 election, the PML-Q won one national seat and the PPP won the second. Three of the five provincial seats went to the PPP and two were won by PML-N candidates.
The PP-207, PP-208 and PP-209 provincial constituencies come under NA-155, and the three MPAs from these constituencies Sahfiq Arain, Akram Kanju and Rana Ejaz Noon, respectively belong to the PPP
According to local political analysts the Shaheed Kanju group was defeated in 2008 because of internal differences. “The Kanju group has resolved its differences for these polls and unanimously fielded Akhtar Khan Kanju,” said local journalist Sadeeq Bajwa.
In 2008, Kanju received 41,682 votes, PML-Q candidate Ajmal Khan Kanju, the younger brother of Akhtar Khan, got 40,109 votes, independent candidate Nawab Amanullah Khan got 36,442 votes, while Tareen got 50,490 votes.
The ECP has set up a total of 312 polling stations in the district; 55 polling stations are reserved for men and 55 for women and 202 are combined stations. Out of a total 681 polling booths, 377 have been reserved for men and 311 for women.
Mian Ashfaq, a local political analyst who lives in Dunyapur Lodhran, said that the urban votes of Karor Pakka Tehsil and Dunyapur Tehsil had always favoured the Kanju family.“Tareen has often accused the people in both tehsils of being ‘narrow minded’ about supporting any other candidate and for rejecting him in the 2008 general elections,” Ashfaq said.
However, all three MPAs in the NA-155 constituency and PML-Q MNA Saddiq Balooch from NA-154 have announced their support for the PPP candidate. “Prime Minster Syed Yousaf Raza Gilanis’ visit on August 2 and his announcement of packages worth billions of rupees have tilted support in favour of Tareen,” Ashfaq said.
He added that the PM had personally called Kanju’s supporters to join the PPP after offering them jobs in government.
Iqbal Haider, a social science lecturer at Aitchison College Lahore who is originally from Dunaypur village, said that three major groups – the Shaheed Kanju group, Zawar Warraich group and Akhtar group had joined to defeat the PPP candidate.
“Kanju is contesting the election based on his personnel contacts with the elders of the city while his opponent is employing the federal government’s machinery to win the seat,” he said. “NA-155 is the seat of the Kanju family and they lost in the previous election because of internal disputes,” he said, adding that the PM’s ‘bribes’ would make no difference as the Kanjus had loyal supporters in the constituency.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2010.
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