Sheikhupura is abuzz with election activity two days ahead of local government elections scheduled for November 19. The candidates have been currying favour with anyone and everyone who can add a sizeable chunk to their vote-bank.
Some of the strongest candidates in the district are running on Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf tickets. The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid has fielded some candidates in the Kot Pindi Das area and the Pakistan Peoples Party in a few scattered locations. Several independent candidates, too, have strong political clout in the district.
Sheikhupura district is bordered by Gujranwala and Hafizabad districts in the North, Narowal district on the north-east, Nankana Sahib district on the west and south-west, and Lahore on the east. The district is spread over 3,280 square kilometres. Historical landmarks in the district include Hiran Minar, the Sheikhupura Fort and the shrine of Sufi poet Waris Shah.
Sheikhupura district has 99 union councils and 10 municipal committees. The municipal committees are: Sheikhupura, Ferozewala, Sharaqpur, Muridke, Farooqabad, Kot Abdul Malik, Narang Mandi, Khanqah Dogran, and Mananwala. There are a total 253 wards.
As many as 429 candidates are contesting elections for 97 chairman-vice chairman panels. The panels in two union councils have been elected unopposed and 34 contestants have withdrawn their nomination papers. On the 253 councillor slots in municipal committees, 1,592 candidates are in the field, 80 have been elected unopposed and 84 had withdrawn their candidature. Four women are contesting the chairman slots, and seven women and 28 non-Muslims are candidates for general councillor.
As many as 1,266 candidates are contesting for the slot of councillor in the rural areas of Sheikhupura district and 11 have been elected unopposed while 77 have withdrawn their nomination papers. The number of total registered voters in Sheikhupura is 1,475,171 – 607,762 of whom are women.
The district has five National Assembly constituencies which the PML-N swept in the 2013 general elections. It has eight constituencies for Punjab Assembly – the PML-N won in seven of them and an independent won in one constituency.
The area used to have strong PPP presence, with the Manj and Awan families of Sheikhupura city, and the Gujjar biradari in Muridke and Narang Mandi, at the fore before the party lost massive clout. The Manj biradari then joined the PML-Q and later the PTI. Former district nazim Tawakkal Ullah Virk formerly a PPP supporter, left the party for PML-Q in 2002.
Mushtaq Awan, senior provincial minister during Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure, was elected from Sheikhupura. Mian Muhammad Azhar, former governor, has large tracts of agricultural land in the area and has been influential in politics in Ferozewala tehsil. After his defeat in 2002 general elections, it seemed as if Azhar had washed his hands of politics for good, however, he joined the PTI two years ago.
Rana Tanveer Hussain, minister for defence production, is one of the most influential politicians in Sheikhupura. He was elected on two seats in the district in the 2013 general elections. Later, his nephew Rana Afzal was elected from one of the seats he had given up.
In July 2015, PPP leader Rana Abbas Ali Khan and 30 office-bearers of the party’s local chapter had joined the PTI. Khan was the PPP candidate for PP-165 in the last general elections. He had joined the PPP in 2012 after quitting the PML-N. PPP Sharaqpur tehsil president Rana Riasat Ali, former nazims Sabir Husain Bhatti, Saeed Shah, Yaqoob Butt, Munir Dogar and Hafiz Usman, and four former councillors too joined the PTI.
Some PTI candidates in the district have been endorsed by the PPP’s local leadership. Mian Jalil Ahmed Sharaqpuri, a former district nazim of Sheikhupura, had joined the PTI in 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2015.