Islamabad’s two constituencies for National Assembly seats – NA 48 and NA 49 – are seemingly up for grabs in the forthcoming polls. Despite its geographical proximity to the centre, or perhaps because of it, this area could never develop into a particular party’s stronghold.
This year, too, analysts see tough competition between three mainstream parties, the PML-N, the PPP and JI, looming ahead, with PTI potentially the tie breaker.
JI takes the lead in NA 48
NA 48 was won by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in 2002, only to be taken by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in 2008. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidates were runners-up both these times, bagging an impressive number of votes.
Judging from the scale of the election campaign, JI’s Mian Muhammad Aslam seems to be ahead of his competitors at present. “Aslam has been campaigning for the last five years and was JI’s bankable candidate,” said Sajjad Abbassi, JI’s information secretary in Islamabad.
Having won the 2002 polls, Aslam was a strong candidate in 2008, as well, before his party decided to boycott elections.There are over 30 people contesting the seat, including first timers like PPP’s Faisal Sakhi Butt and heavyweights like Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel Khan is plagued by scandal. He lost the bulk of his goodwill during his five-year tenure, rocked by a real estate scandal, and even served time in jail. According to sources, he is the party’s candidate only because of a lack of options.
New challenges for PML-N in NA 49
In 2008, PML-N’s Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry won the seat by a very slim margin, despite enjoying a powerful biradari (clan) vote. This time, the PPP and PML-Q have teamed up against him. Furthermore, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and JI, who boycotted 2008 elections, have also fielded strong candidates to give Chaudhry a run for his money.
Analysts say he still has a good chance, but ‘upset may just occur’. There are a total of 58 candidates in the race for this seat, but the real contest is between PPP’s Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, JI’s Zubair Farooq Khan, PTI’s Malik Illyas Meherban and, of course, PML-N’s Chaudhry.
No independent candidate poses a real threat
The PPP has chosen Khokhar over Bokhari, who had defeated Khokhar in 2002 by a large margin. Bokhari is currently chairman of the Senate. A local PML-N worker said Khokhar is a tough competitor for Chaudhry, as JI and PTI candidates will break into some of the PML-N vote bank. Furthermore, the PML-Q has decided not to field its candidate against Khokhar, as a result of seat adjustment between the two parties. JI awarded its ticket to Zubair Farooq Khan very early on. While he is considered as one of the strongest candidates, some party workers are not optimistic. “His family constituency is NA-48, where Mian Aslam is contesting,” said a JI worker. PTI’s Meherban, a certain choice for his party, is an influential agriculturist and educationist from the Tarlai Kalan area. Although considered a strong candidate, it remains to be seen whether he can topple the top three.
At least two dominant families exercise their influence within NA 48. This constituency comprises half of Islamabad’s urban area and the demarcated territory of Sangjani, Golra Sharif, Shah Allah Ditta, Serai Kharbuza, Tarnol, Madhu and other rural areas. Voting patterns in NA 49 are influenced by the biradari system and some personality cult. The constituency comprises largely rural areas. The Bokharis, Khokhars and Chaudhrys all enjoy a considerable biradari vote. Major urban areas include Chak Shehzad, Humak Town, Sohan, Industrial Area and Rawat, while the rural areas include Tarlai Kalan, Pind Begwal, Kirpa, Dhok Natha, Pandori, Loi Bher, Pir Sohawa, Nur Pur Shahan and Sheikhpur.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2013.