- Cut-throat competition expected as Shahid Khaqan faces opponent from his own clan
ISLAMABAD: It might not be a walk in the park for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to win NA-57 anymore as a cut-throat competition is expected between former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate Sadaqat Abbasi in this constituency on July 25.
The NA-57, which used to be NA-50 (Rawalpindi-I), is a large constituency covering Murree, Kotli Sattian, Kahuta, Sagri circle union councils of Rawalpindi tehsil and some areas of Kallar Syedan. There are 590,372 registered voters in the entire constituency including 279,109 women, who could play a decisive role in the polls.
Shahid Khaqan has remained an MNA since 1988 and was only once defeated by Murtaza Sathi in 2002.
In 2013, Abbasi bagged 133,906 votes and Satti got 44,713 votes finishing third behind PTI’s Sadaqat Abbasi, who bagged only 46,810 votes.
This time around, the situation is different as Shahid Khaqan Abbasi failed to deliver to the public during his tenure as a prime minister. The locals had attached high hopes with him to resolve the chronic issues facing the people of the constituency, but he even failed to visit the area after becoming the premier.
Moreover, Shahid Khaqan is yet to start an aggressive campaign in NA-57 since his main focus is on NA-53, where his main opponent is PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
At the onset of the election campaign in Kahuta, Khaqan faced angry PML-N workers and protesters who chanted slogans against him for allegedly failing to fulfil the promises he had made in his previous election campaign. His supporters, however, claimed that the former premier brought about revolutionary changes during his stint and therefore needed not to campaign.
There are three major clans dominating the constituency i.e. Abbasi, Satti and Rajas, and all three of them have an equal number of votes in the constituency.
Both the main contenders this time belong to Abbasi clan and it might be a first time that no major political party has awarded tickets to a candidate from Satti clan for the National Assembly. Therefore, their vote can play a decisive role in the constituency.
The PTI has fielded the provincial assembly candidates from Satti clans, Murtaza Satti from PP-07 and Major (r) Latasib Satti from PP-06, boosting its chances to win.
The PML-N has the support of Raja clan and has awarded tickets to Muhammad Ali for PP-07 and Raja Ashfaq Sarwar for PP-06.
The PPP, on the other hand, has fielded its candidate Mehreen Anwar Raja in the constituency. Though she seems nowhere in the competition, she could get considerable votes of her Raja clan, which has always remained a strong bastion of Khaqan.
Moreover, Raja Shahid, a known transporter and a close relative of Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, who joined PTI, can also benefit the PTI in the elections.
While talking to Pakistan Today, Yasir Abbasi, a dweller of Murree, said that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi seems to be in trouble and it could be judged from the fact that he is even facing opposition from his native Union Council Dewal Sharif.
He said that the constituency is facing numerous problems, with water being the topmost among them, but the former premier did nothing in this regard.
Abid Fazil Abbasi, a senior journalist from the locality, told Pakistan Today that Khaqan would face a tough task in this election due to the wave of change of Imran Khan.
Three major dissenting PML-N groups in NA-57 have also announced supporting PTI candidates Sadaqat Ali Abbasi and Latasib Satti, which could prove detrimental to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
The United Group and the Ittefaq Group led by Junaid Aziz Abbasi, the Azm-e-Inqalab Group headed by Ishtiaq Abbasi, who secured 12,000 votes in 2013 elections, announced support for PTI candidates.
It was widely believed that the growing popularity of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in the area could cost PML-N the most as TLP fielded Javed Akhtar Abbasi and Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) nominated Mohammad Muneer Satti for the constituency, who could get a sizable vote of Barelvis.
However, the Deobandi groups including the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) could vote for PML-N.
The Shia community has traditionally remained PPP voters, however, this time around considerable Shia votes can go to PTI due to the alliance between the Barelvi groups and the PML-N.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed optimism that he would win the seat with a great margin as the public will vote for him on July 25. He added that the PML-N government did a lot for the public during the last five-years hence people have no choice but to vote for the PML-N.
To a question about friction in the party, he said that it is nothing new as he faced such situation in every election but eventually stood victorious.
When was asked as to why he opted to contest from NA-53, he said that it was the party’s decision to field him against Imran Khan.