Rifts in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have led to a three way race for mayor’s office in Faisalabad.
Candidates supported by two PML-N stalwarts Rana Sanaullah, the provincial law minister, and Chaudhry Sher Ali, a former mayor, are facing off in the city.
Sher Ali has fielded candidates from his Mayor Group platform with bucket as their election symbol. Most candidates supported by Sanaullah are contesting on PML-N tickets. In some UCs falling under NA-84 where Sher Ali’s son Abid Sher Ali is a National Assembly member (on PML-N ticket), Sanaullah could not secure PML-N tickets for his supporters and has fielded candidates with election symbol diamond.
There are 157 UCs in the Faisalabad Municipal Corporation.
One hundred and twenty four panels for the chairman and vice-chairman are contesting on PML-N tickets. The Mayor Group and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf each has fielded panels in 123 UCs. The Pakistan Peoples Party has fielded only eight panels for the FMC.
All four National Assembly seats in the area were won in the 2013 elections by the PML-N (NA-82, NA-83, NA-84 and NA-85). Seven of the eight provincial assembly seats were also won by the PML-N and one by the PTI (on a by-poll following disqualification of the PML-N candidate over a fake degree).
Among the panels supported by Sanaullah, Malik Riaz, younger brother of PML-N MPA Malik Nawaz from Ghulam Muhammadabad, is an aspirant for mayor’s office. Nawaz Malik’s breakthrough in the city’s politics was in the party-less elections of 1985 when he won a provincial assembly seat. The brothers own ghee and beverage factories in the city.
Riaz is contesting against Malik Sajid Sohail, a nephew of a former mayor, from the Mayor Group in UC 146. The UC includes Ghulam Muhammad Abad A-block and some areas of B-block, Gol Musjid, Shahi Chowk, Latif Chowk, WASA Tube Well Chowk, Punnu Chowk, Qasim Park, Madani Chowk and Mandi Chowk.
The UC is among the areas of the city considered strongholds of the PPP till the 1990s. The PPP had won all elections in the area till 1990s. The decline in the party’s popularity went along with the rise in the population of Ansaris in the area. The Ansaris won elections from 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2008 and 2013 with support of the PML-N.
This year they are split between the two PML-N factions this year.
To prevent Riaz from winning on October 31, the Mayor Group has secured support for their candidate from the PTI and the JI. Former MPA Malik Muhammad Din of JI and Shehzad Muazzam of the PTI have announced support for Sohail.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sher Ali says Sajid is the covering candidate for his son, Aamir Sher Ali, for the city mayor’s office.
Aamir is contesting against a PTI candidate, a debutant, in UC-116.
The PTI city organiser, Asad Muazzam, is counting on the success of his brother Shehzad Muazzam in UC-57. He says Shehzad Muazzam will be the party’s candidate for the office of mayor. Muazzam, who owns a chemicals factory, was elected nazim in the UC in 2005. He had contested the election on a PPP ticket.
None of the parties have so far held major public gatherings in the city. The PTI has announced a jalsa in Dhobi Ghat for October 28. PTI chief Imran Khan is likely to address the gathering.
The Mayor Group is holding a convention of its panels at the same venue on October 29.
None of the PPP leaders, including former senior minister Raja Riaz Ahmad, have come out in support of their candidates.
Several campaign related incidents of firing and arson have been reported from the city. The police have not taken any action. They say no one has pursued the complaints so there is no need for action on them.
Municipal governance :
Electables, not issues
Veteran journalist Hamid Dawoodi says local government election in the city is a contest between electables. He says party affiliation of candidates is of no significance. What matters is their connections to the political heavyweights, he adds. He says none of the PML-N or PTI leaders have yet presented any development plan for the city. “They’re only concerned about capturing maximum number of seats,” he says.
Voters complain about poor state of roads, sewerage and piped water and public health infrastructure.
Muhammad Asghar, 93, a Jinnah Colony resident, says some thoroughfares on the city’s periphery give an impression that it has seen a lot of development in recent years. “Visit the Old City and you will see the poor state of governance,” he says.
Hamid Ali, another voter, complains about crowded outpatient wards at the city’s major public health facilities like Allied Hospital, DHQ Hospital and Ghulam Muhammadabad Hospital. He says these hospitals are not well equipped to treat diseases of liver, respiratory system and the heart.
The PPP had dominated the city’s local government politics from 1979 to 1987. It had secured the mayor’s office following the 1979 election. In 1987, Sher Ali won the mayor’s office in a party-less election. Sher Ali remained the city mayor till his election to the national assembly in 1990s. His son Aamir Sher Ali had won the council seat vacated by him.
Sher Ali and his supporters remained away from the city’s politics in the 2001 and 2005 election. Mumtaz Cheema had won the city nazim’s seat in 2001 with support from the PPP but later joined the PML-Q.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.