–PTI likely to cause upset with landslide victory over dominant rivals
–Umar Aslam Awan of PTI leads the race, PML-N’s Sumera Malik trailing behind
ISLAMABAD: Khushab district is home to traditional political heavyweights who move with the tide, switching their political affiliations with parties from time-to-time and as per the shifting of public trends.
Khushab, the smallest district of Punjab in terms of population index, is divided into four tehsils: Khushab, Noorpur Thal, Quaidabad, and Naushera.
Tiwanas, Awans, Balochs, Qureshis, Bundials and Gunjials are major clans who have dominated the politics in Khushab over the past few decades and these political bigwigs dominate the political wrangling in across Khushab district.
However, political observers say a new change is taking place in Khushab for the first time after the 1970s as the impact of political parties are overshadowing the political heavyweights and the district is all set to take a turn from those families who have been winning elections for the past eighteen years.
Traditionally, Khushab has been home to right-wing politicians and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had dominated the elections since past decade. However, things are taking a total turnaround this time around.
A survey across the district reveals that Khushab is all set to wear red and green this time around and the candidates of towards Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are all set to grab a landslide victory over their rivals who have been dominating the political stage for past twenty years.
The race for NA-93 Khushab-I is between five members of Awan clan who also come from the family of late Malik Naeem Khan who won from this constituency four times – from 1985 to 1993.
After being allowed to contest elections, the previously disqualified PML-N leader Sumera Malik is involved in hectic canvassing in NA-93. Ms Malik, who won elections in the year 2002, 2008 and 2013 from National Alliance, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, and the PML-N, is again contesting on PML-N ticket against one of her relatives, Malik Umer Aslam Awan.
Malik Umer had won 1997 elections from PML-N but later suffered defeats at hands of Sumera Malik thrice i.e. 2002, 2008 and 2013. In by-elections of 2014, Umer again was defeated by Sumera Malik’s son, Malik Uzair Khan.
At least five members of the same Awan family of Padhhrar are in the run for NA-93. PML-N has fielded Sumera Malik who is being challenged by PTI’s Umar Aslam Awan. Malik Mazhar Awan – the uncle of PML-N’s MNA from NA-94 Malik Shakir Bashir Awan, is also contesting as an independent.
Malik Umar Aslam’s another cousin, Malik Ali Sanwal, is also contesting on jeep symbol.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) has fielded Agha Naseem Abbas, who is a painter by profession while Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) has fielded Abdullah Ahmed.
PTI candidate Umar Aslam Awan leads the race riding on the party vote bank and Sumera Malik is trailing behind.
On PP-83 Khushab-II, the real battle is between Malik Asif Bha of PML-N and Ghulam Rasool Sangha who is an independent candidate who is being supported by PTI. The PTI had allocated ticket to a political novice Gul Asghar Khan who has no influence in the entire district and even lost his home union council during the last local government elections.
Gul Asghar is known for his close contacts with PTI’s North Punjab President Amir Kayani and through his influence had first got a ticket for NA-94 Khushab and later after protests by party workers were allocated ticket for PP-83. Later, Gul Asghar returned the party ticket due to lack of support from workers on the ground.
Hence, the local party leadership is supporting Sangha whose younger brother, Amir Haider Sangha is Chairman Union Council who had also challenged Sumera Malik’s eligibility leading to her disqualification. Sangha is leading on PP-83 and is set to win.
For NA-94 Khushab-II, there are three major contenders including former MNA from NA-93 Malik Uzair Khan, son of Sumera Malik, who is running as an independent. Malik Shakir Bashir is again vying on PML-N ticket while PTI has again fielded Malik Ihsanullah Tiwana.
Shakir Bashir is son of former MNA Malik Shakir Awan and also won the 2008 and 2013 elections from the PML-N. However, this time around, Shakir Bashir is carrying the incumbency baggage, leading to unpopularity among the voters.
On the other hand, Ihsanullah Tiwana comes from the powerful Tiwana family who has been winning elections from the 1940s. Khuda Bux Tiwana is the man who introduced Sumera Malik and Malik Naeem Khan into politics who both later became his rivals. However, Tiwanas kept their influence intact. Malik Ihsanullah Tiwana, the youngest among Tiwana brothers, had joined the PTI in its initial days and has remained loyal to the party since then.
Though Tiwanas lost elections in 2008 and 2013, this time around, Ihsanullah Tiwana is all set to take revenge on Shakir Bashir in upcoming elections.
The battle for PP-82 Khushab-I is dominated by Bandial family. The PML-N has fielded Karam Elahi Bandial for this constituency while Fateh Khaliq Bandial is PTI’s candidate who is leading the race.
For PP-84 Khushab-III, veteran politician Sardar Shuja Mohammad Khan Baloch is trying his luck on PTI ticket while the PML-N candidate is former MPA Malik Waris Kallu. The PPP has fielded Anwar Khan who has no following in the area.
In 2013 elections, Shuja Khan Baloch had bagged 65000 votes as an independent candidate for NA-70 Khushab. A close contest is being expected on this seat between Waris Kallu and Shuja Baloch.