Key members of prominent biradaris backed by arch political rivals from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf are expected to set the tone for local government elections in Hafizabad district.
Two major groups facing off in the district council elections are led by a prominent member of the Tarar biradari, also the father of a federal minister, and a Bhatti, son of a political stalwart in Hafizabad.
The most prominent biraderis in Hafizabad are the Arain, Jutt, Tarar, Bhatti and Awan. The main political parties active in the area are the PML-N and the PTI. The slack has been picked up by the independents. The Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid are barely visible in terms of candidates fielded.
Minister Saira Tarar’s father Afzal Tarar is contesting the polls from his native village Kolo Tarar. He is gunning for district council chairmanship against PTI’s Sikandar Nawaz Bhatti, the son of Mehdi Hassan Bhatti, thrice MPA and twice MNA from the district. The senior Bhatti has previously been associated with the PML-N, the PPP and the PML-Q.
The Hafizabad district council is divided into 46 union councils. There are 158 candidates contesting for chairmen and vice chairmen and 653 for general councillor. The chairman-vice chairman panel in UC 25 has been elected unopposed.
The district has four municipal committees: Hafizabad, Pindi Bhattian, Jalalpur Bhattian and Sukheke. PTI leaders claim strong support in the area however they admit that the PML-N is stronger in Jalalpur Bhattian. PML-N leaders claim popular support throughout the district.
The Hafizabad Municipal Committee has 49 wards. Elections will be held in 47 wards as the councillors for two wards have been elected unopposed. As many as 228 candidates are contesting for councillor seats from these wards.
The Pindi Bhattian Municipal Committee has 19 wards but elections will be held in 18 as the councillor for Ward 15 was elected unopposed. As many as 74 candidates are running from the remaining 18 wards.
Of 11 wards in Jalalpur Bhattian Municipal Committee, councillors have been elected unopposed in seven wards. Elections will be held in the remaining four wards where 13 candidates are in the run. The Sukheke Municipal Committee has 15 wards where 51 candidates are contesting elections.
Hafizabad district has 588,601 voters – 338,615 men and 249,986 women. There are 188,506 registered voters in municipal committees and 400,095 registered voters for district council. The total number of polling stations being set up in the district is 516 – 129 each for men and women and 258 polling stations for both. The district has a polling staff of over 4,300 officials including presiding officers, assistant presiding officers, polling officers and naib qasids. Rangers and army men will be deployed for the polls. The ECP has declared 90 polling stations sensitive and 21 very sensitive.
There are three MPAs from the district. Two of them – Malik Fiaz Ahmad Awan from PP-105 and Parliamentary Secretary for Food Chaudhry Muhammad Asad Ullah from PP 106 – are from the PML-N. MPA Nighat Intesar Bhatti from PP 107 is affiliated with the PTI.
Both National Assembly seats from the district were won by PML-N candidates in the 2013 general elections. MNA Saira Afzal Tarar, federal minister for National Health Services, was elected from NA-102, Hafizabad-I, and Mian Shahid Hussain Khan Bhatti from Pindi Bhattian, NA-103, Hafizabad-II.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2015.