LODHRAN: An interesting but close contest is expected between candidates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in almost all constituencies of District Lodhran where both the parties are locked in pitched battles in two National and five Provincial Assembly seats.
The city is home to PTI’s magician, Jahangir Khan Tareen, who since his own disqualification in Panama Papers case has earned a reputation of a selfless party guard working for the party’s cause and is credited for the inclusion of political heavyweights, also called as “Electables” into the PTI fold from across country.
In the same spirit, Tareen also lured the Lodhran-based electables into the PTI fold which it seems did not go down well with the party cadres. Hence, several party leaders have rebelled against the introduction of political heavyweights which is likely to cost the party in the upcoming elections.
The situation got so complex that Jahangir Tareen was compelled to withdraw his son, Ali Khan Tareen, from contesting from NA-161 Lodhran-II just to avoid another defeat as the party cadres were unhappy with Tareen.
The good omen for PTI fans is that not only Jahangir Tareen has joined the electioneering but Ali Khan Tareen has also joined the campaign after his return from England.
While PTI stands divided, same is the case with the rival PML-N whose former MNA Syed Iqbal Shah is angry with the party leadership for not awarding party ticket to him despite the fact that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had promised him party ticket for Election 2018 when he had defeated Ali Khan Tareen in recent by-election held in February this year.
If the disenchanted old guards of PTI have either switched sides or have decided to contest independently, putting the chances of win of the party nominees in a jeopardy, same is the case with the PML-N whose leaders are also not supporting other fellow candidates, making the election process more complicated and difficult to predict. Hence, Shaheed Kanju Group, once the only political powerhouse capable to win elections, today stands badly divided and some of its leaders have joined Tareen’s camp.
NA-160 Lodhran-I is a constituency based on largely rural areas of Lodhran district including Kehror Pakka and Dunya Pur subdivisions where Arain is major clan while Syeds, Rajputs and other casts also have significance.
Kanju Group leader and former MNA Abdur Rehman Kanju is again a candidate of PML-N who is up against his own maternal uncle Akhtar Khan Kanju-a PTI candidate this time around. Akhtar, also elected MNA in the year 2002 on PML-Q ticket, is vigorously running his election campaign and has a little edge over his nephew in the race. Abdur Rehman Kanju, who also is suffering from incumbency factor, is trying to catch up with PTI’s candidate though.
For PP-224 Lodhran-I, Amir Iqbal Shah, the son of former MNA Iqbal Shah, has been allocated party ticket. Amir, who is in the field for the first time, is trailing back his PTI’s adversary, Zawar Hussain Warraich who is in a strong position due to support from his own clan and powerful Arain and Rajputs.
Former candidate Malik Asif Awan is also supporting PTI candidate and is adding to his lead which is piling up huge.
In PP-225 Lodhran-II, a close contest is expected between two former MPAs – Jahangir Sultan Bhutta and Tahir Khan Mallezai. Bhutta is on PML-N ticket while Mallezai is PTI nominee who enjoys an edge over his PML-N adversary.
The contest for PP-226 Lodhran-III is bit clear where Shah Mohammad Joya of PML-N has an edge over PTI nominee Rana Faraz Noon. Joya family has a good vote bank in the constituency and this factor would benefit PML-N candidate who is also benefitting from internal divide of PTI as Akhtar Kanju is not supporting Faraz Noon as his ticket was secured by Nawab Amanullah, the former PTI candidate. Kanju is rather supporting an independent candidate of his own group who is contesting on cart symbol.
Viewing the internal strife, Tareen has decided to leave the constituency open.
The race for NA-161 Lodhran-II is also close where PTI has pitched former MPA from Dunya Pur Mian Shafique Arain while the PML-N has awarded ticket to former MNA Siddique Khan Baloch.
Though Mian Shafique represents powerful Arain clan and is a big landowner of the area like Tareen, voters fear that if they vote him, they may not get hold of him for redressal of their daily life issues as the landlord hails from Dunya Pur.
On the other hand, Siddique Baloch initially was not interested in contesting from NA-161 but as soon Ali Tareen withdrew from elections, Baloch announced to contest, depriving former MNA Pir Iqbal Shah of the party ticket. When Pir Iqbal Shah refused to surrender, Siddique Baloch’s close aides and MPA candidate Pir Rafi Shah and others refused to contest under Iqbal Shah.
A dejected Iqbal Shah later decided to join PTI but he could not do so as Tareen had left for England for some check-ups. PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif and others visited the area and convinced Shah not to join the PTI and rather contest from MPA ticket.
For PP-227 Lodhran-IV, PML-N candidate Siddique Khan Baloch is in a strong position as the PTI has awarded ticket to former MNA Nawab Amanullah PTI who is not aggressively campaigning.
The contest for PP-228 Lodhran-V is between Nazir Khan Baloch of PTI and Pir Rafiuddin Shah of PML-N who is being considered a weaker candidate. Nazir Baloch is the son of former MPA Ahmed Khan Baloch who has been elected several times and has never lost an election since 1990.
Hassan Mehmood, PTI’s former general secretary Lodhran city, is contesting as independent and is being backed by former vice president of PTI Captain (R) Izzat Javed who is playing a spoiler’s role.
It was Siddique Baloch who wooed Izzat Javed and Hassan Mehmood into PML-N to cement his position.