Attock district has refused to become a fortress for any single political party. The upcoming polls will see a clash between individuals, not ideologies or party affiliations, for the three National Assembly seats – NA-57, NA-58 and NA-59.
Silence of the supporters
Electioneering is well under way, with door-to-door campaigns and corner meetings in full swing. However, voters are ‘silent’ about their political picks, especially in the urban areas.
According to analysts, these ‘silent’ voters – the ones who welcome every candidate who knocks on their door, but refrain from declaring their explicit support for anyone – are the ones that will make the difference at the end.
“Their policy is: wait and see. They take a decision only when a winner is clearly visible,” said Muhammad Siddiq, a local businessmen and political worker who has been observing voting patterns in the area.
Three titans, one trophy
NA-57, which comprises Attock City, Hazro, Kamra Cantonment, Barotha, Jalalia, Shadi Khan and other areas, will see a contest between essentially the same three candidates from the 2008 elections.
The previous winner, Sheikh Aftab Ahmed of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is in the run once again, as is the runner up, Malik Amin Aslam, who is contesting from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s platform this time around. The only major change is that second runner-up, Eman Waseem, has been replaced by her father, Major Tahir Sadiq. He is contesting as an independent, under the Major Group banner.
By all accounts, the competition between the three will be tough. All three candidates have come into the ring well prepared.
Aftab’s work during his tenure was appreciated by many, but some complained that he remained ‘unavailable’ in times of need.
“Sheikh Aftab has done some good things, but he failed to resolve our major problems,” said Shehzada Khan, a rickshaw driver. According to Shehzad, his area is facing acute gas shortage and frequent power outages even today, despite having a hydel power plant at Ghazi Barotha.
On the other hand, Major Tahir, who served as district nazim previously, was supposedly available throughout and listened to all grievances. He created 18,000 jobs for the youth, and is also credited with giving Attock two universities, plus various development projects.
“I will vote for Major this time. I went to him twice for my job and he welcomed me, treated me well,” said Hafiz Shoaib, salesman at a local shop.
Local pundits said PTI’s Malik Amin also has a very good chance of taking home the crown. Because of his strong, political family background, and the support of the Malik clan, he enjoys a large vote-bank. Furthermore, he had won the 2002 polls.
Tried and tested
NA-58 and NA-59 mainly comprise rural areas, and biradari politics dominate the region. More often than not, the influence of the local landlords reigns supreme. The winners of elections past often have biradari backing, and can stage easy comebacks.
NA-58, encompassing Pindi Gheb, Jand, Jal Wal, Dhullian, Makhad, Kot Chhaji, Ganda Khas and other areas, has five contestants battling it out. Of these, analysts predict that the main rounds will be between PTI’s Malik Sohail Khan and Major Tahir Sadiq.
Many consider Sohail, the winner of the previous election, to be the running favourite. However, Major Tahir’s influence has declined.
The situation is similar in NA-59, where, once again, the tried and tested winner – PPP’s Sardar Saleem Haider Khan – is believed to be the favourite.
Also contesting the seat is Major Tahir’s son, Muahmmad Zain Elahi, and PTI’s Sardar Muhammad Ali Khan, both of whom are considered heavyweights in their own right.
While there is no clear winner in sight for any of these three seats, the silent voters may sway results in unlikely directions, ensuring an interesting showdown.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2013.
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