HARIPUR: After Omar Ayub Khan walked away from his stand-off with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Dr Raja Amir Zaman, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was left in a pickle. The former now has to select an alternative candidate for NA-19, Haripur by-polls.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan directed re-elections in the constituency on June 19, bringing an end to the months-long legal battle between Ayub and Zaman. PML-N Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief Pir Sabir Shah along with other bigwigs like former assembly speaker Major (retd) Habibullah Khan and former minister Qazi Muhammad Asad Khan are hesitant to take one for the team as PTI is in power in the province and are the main competition in the constituency.
Sensing the political vacuum, the son of slain K-P minister Akhtar Nawaz Khan who is also the nephew of Qaumi Watan Party MPA Gohar Nawaz Khan has started lobbying for the seat. Babar Nawaz Khan is now the latest entrant in this game of polls.
Having gained the support of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law MNA Captain (retd) Safdar, Senator General (retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi and Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, Babar could bag the party ticket. Sources say Omar has also assured him support against Zaman.
Babar made his mainstream debut recently. He contested the PK-50, Haripur-II seat where PTI’s Akbar Ayub Khan edged him out, winning by a margin of around 3,000 votes.
Intra-party push and pull
Babar still faces opposition from Advocate Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan. Zulfiqar reportedly suggested to Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan to throw a spanner in the works. The governor and Safdar have a history of differences.
According to sources, these differences will soon die down as the party is left with few alternatives to Omar Ayub. NA-19 has been PML-N’s homeground for at least the last 30 years and the party would not want to lose to PTI.
With support from party stalwarts, Babar might turn be the dark horse in the contest. With him, he brings the entire clan on board.
His father won the PK-51, Haripur-III berth consecutively; in 2002 and 2008. Following Akhtar’s assassination, his uncle Gohar retained the seat both during the by-polls and the subsequent 2013 general elections. Although infighting has kept the family divided, it still enjoys the support of the public.
Other candidates expected to file papers include Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl leader and owner of a local newspaper Pir Alam Zeb Shah, former Pakistan Peoples Party district president and businessman Haji Tahir Qureshi, Awami National Party leader and social activist Irum Bibi and former MNA Sardar Mushtaq.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.