A historic district of Punjab located 90 km south east of the federal capital, Chakwal has produced more soldiers and army generals than any other part of Pakistan.
Chakwal has two national and four provincial assembly seats.
For decades this district, which boasts of two NA and four PA seats, was considered a stronghold of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), but the upcoming elections may see a serious upset.
NA-60: The real contestants
In NA-60, the real contest is between Tahir Iqbal of PML-N, the PPP’s Raja Sana-ul-Haq and Sardar Ghulam Abbas (independent) who enjoys the support of the PML-Q.
In the 2008 elections, Ayaz Amir won from NA-60 on a PML-N ticket by grabbing over 125,000 votes. However, this time PML-N denied him the ticket and chose to field Major (retd) Tahir Iqbal, who won this seat in the 2002 elections on a Q-league ticket.
Iqbal is a son-in-law of Lt. General (retd) Abdul Majeed Malik, who remained undefeated from 1988 to 2002 from this constituency, after which he had to pull out of the race because he was not a graduate.
Iqbal is believed to have been preferred over Ayaz Amir because of the support he enjoys among religious groups, which have a sizable vote bank in this constituency. The right-wing groups had conveyed it to the PML-N leadership that they would not vote for the party if it awarded the ticket to Ayaz Amir, who is a known columnist and journalist with liberal views.
Angered by the party decision, Amir withdrew his nomination papers and decided to support the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), which has fielded Raja Yassir Sarfaraz in the district.
“This will certainly give a tough challenge to PML-N because Ayaz Amir has his own vote bank,” commented local journalist Jameel Ahmed.
Sardar Ghulam Abbas, the former district nazim, is another candidate who will play a crucial role. Abbas, a known political figure, had first joined PTI and was also in contact with the PML-N. However, when the PML-N denied him the ticket, he decided to fight the election independently. Interestingly, Abbas also enjoys the support of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who is contesting from NA-61 Chakwal.
The PML-Q is also trying to convince the PPP to withdraw its candidate Raja Sana-ul-Haq, who is the brother of former prime minister Raja Parvez Ashraf’s son-in-law, in favour of Abbas.
If that happens, this may pose a serious challenge to the PML-N candidate. However, the PML-N got a boost when the right-wing groups in the district decided to support their candidates from both constituencies.
NA-61: A tricky equation
The situation in NA-61 is even more complex and it seems the PML-N in this constituency is on a weak footing. The reason is that PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who is contesting from NA-61, enjoys the support of PPP and the influential Tamman clan.
Elahi lost 2008 elections from this constituency by only a few hundred votes, to PML-N candidate Sardar Faiz Tamman, who resigned from the National Assembly in 2010, apparently over fake degree charge. He later joined PTI but quit the party. He has now decided to support Parvez Elahi.
“Parvez Elahi’s chances are bright in NA-61 because he has undertaken lot of development work, not only when he was Punjab chief minister but also when he was deputy prime minister,” remarked political analyst Professor Tahir Malik, who hails from Talagang.
Though the PML-N fielded Sardar Mumtaz Tamman from NA-61, other Tammans have joined other parties, including Mansoor Hayat Tamman who is contesting as a PTI candidate, while Sardar Faiz Tamman has joined hands with Parvez Elahi.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2013.