A victory in Khushab, adjacent to Mianwali [Imran Khan’s hometown], would be significant for the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz. It would also help the PML-N counter Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s claims of rigging in the May 11 elections, party officials told The Express Tribune.
The PML-N and the PTI have been actively campaigning for the NA-69 (Khushab) by-election scheduled for January 23. Both parties aim to secure the NA-69 seat, capitalise the victory for the local government elections and demonstrate their political muscle in the area.
The seat fell vacant after PML-N’s Sumera Malik was disqualified over a fake degree. The PML-N has issued the ticket to Malik’s son Malik Uzair Muhammad Khan. The PTI has fielded Umer Aslam, the defeated candidate.
PML-N officials told The Express Tribune that a team led by Hamza Shahbaz and several members of the party’s Punjab Public Affairs Unit have organised the election campaign for Uzair Khan. PTI chairman Imran Khan has been campaigning for Aslam.
The PML-N has so far held a large public gathering and plans to hold another on January 20. The PTI too has scheduled one on January 20. It has so far held two large public gatherings as part of its campaign.
PML-N officials have said that they want to win the seat to garner support for the local government elections. The PTI hopes to use a victory in Khushab to spur its campaign alleging mass rigging in the May 11 elections, they say.
The teams that supervised the campaign in NA-71 (Mianwali) by-election, after Imran Khan vacated the seat, was running the campaign in NA-69.
The PML-N had devised a unique strategy for the Mianwali by-elections in which the party sent “trustworthy” lawmakers to the constituency ahead of the elections. They canvassed for Haji Obaidullah Khan Shadi Khel, who has now won the election.
Hamza Shahbaz dispatched the same team, led by Public Affair Unit member Chaudhry Saud Majeed, to Khushab 10 days ago. The team has so far arranged a workers’ meeting and a public gathering in the constituency. Hamza Shahbaz addressed both gatherings.
The party workers’ meeting was attended by around 500 workers from 27 union councils.
The public gathering was held in Noshera tehsil on January 18. Saud Majeed told The Express Tribune that Hamza Shahbaz was confident of victory in the constituency.
The two gatherings organised by the PTI were addressed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Hamza Shahbaz and Imran Khan are scheduled to address their parties’ gatherings on January 20.
One of PML-N’s parliamentary board members told The Express Tribune that Umer Aslam, the PTI candidate, had first approached the PML-N for the ticket. He was refused the ticket due to his “inconsistency and unreliability”, the member said, and the ticket went to Uzair Khan.
Aslam has been unable to defeat Sumera Malik in the last three elections. He contested the 2002 election on a PML-Q ticket and was defeated by Sumera Malik who ran for the National Alliance. Malik contested the 2008 elections on a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid ticket and defeated Aslam, who ran as an independent candidate. Malik contested the 2013 elections on a PML-N ticket and once again defeated PTI’s Aslam.
Qadir Yar Tiwana, a civil servant from NA 69, said of the four police stations in the constituency, two tilted towards Sumera Malik’s son while two in the Awan family area appeared to favour Aslam. He said the people of Khushab supported Sumera Malik and were likely to vote her son in this time.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2014.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Aslam contested the 1997 election on a PML-N ticket. The error is regretted.
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