–PML-N’s experienced Abrar to face newcomer Kiyani in electoral politics
ISLAMABAD: Despite being the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) stronghold traditionally, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is likely to give the embattled PML-N a run for its money in the race for the NA-61, Rawalpindi.
The PML-N is fielded its old guard and former MNA Malik Abrar in the constituency, who is facing a tough challenge against PTI’s ticket holder Amir Kiyani, who is a friend of Chairman PTI Imran Khan, but is relatively unknown to locals and is also new in electoral politics.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has given a chance to Haji Gulzar Awan, while Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and some other parties have also fielded their respective candidates, who are seemingly contesting the polls only to show their physical presence felt on the ground.
In 2013, the PTI has also fielded new candidate Hina Manzoor but she gave a very tough time to Abrar before losing by less margin of 4,000 plus.
Previously NA-54, NA-61 consists of Peshawar Road from Golra Mor to Tench Bhatta, including the area around the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ), Lalazar, Westridge, Misrial Road and adjoining areas.
Initially it was a bastion of the left-wing PPP in the 1970 and 1977 elections, however, the constituency has seen a strong shift towards the conservative centre-right parties since Gen (r) Zia’s Islamisation.
The candidates associated with PML-N (formally IJI) have performed considerably well in the general elections from this constituency. Since the 1988 elections, the party’s candidates have won the constituency six out of times seven times, with left-wing PPP only making winning inroads in the 2002 elections.
The constituency has 367,782 registered voters including 193,240 men and 174,542 women, while 299 polling stations, including 152 male and 145 female, have been established in the constituency. 314 presiding officers, 1,441 assistant presiding officers, and 720 polling officers would perform the elections day duty.
It was earlier believed that since Kiyani was considered an alien to the constituency, which could benefit the PML-N, however, the way his panel was running the campaign, things may change drastically in favour of the PTI candidate.
The area is facing a number of issues but the water crisis could prove a major reason of his defeat because he has not only failed in addressing the problem but is also alleged of creating of an artificial water crisis and sale water of his own tube-well at a high rate.
Besides, they said that PTI has fielded strong candidates for the provincial assembly, though they came over from other parties, they are well-known faces in the areas.
Malik Abrar has won the seat for two consecutive times. In 2008, he defeated PPP candidate Zamarud Khan, as he managed to get 58,228 votes as compared to Zamarud Khan’s 33,749 and PML-Q’s Raja Basharat 10,400 votes.
1n 2013, Malik Abrar won again after a close contest with PTI’s Hina Manzoor, he got 76,255 votes and Hina got 68,873 while Zamarud Khan got only 13,161 votes.
Ayaz Gujjar, a law graduate, said that PTI candidate is in better position this time around to put an end on PML-N supremacy on the constituency mainly because of PTI strong MPAs penal, which consisted of Raja Basharat (PP-14), Umar Tanveer But (PP-15) and Haji Amjid (PP-13), as all the three are well-known figures in the area, and failure of the previous government to address the chronic issues of the area.
He said that Shahid Gillani, who is now contesting on TLP ticket, could damage the PML-N to a considerable extent.
Ayaz said that Abrar is facing tough questions from his people, especially about clean drinking water, as in some area there is no water at all and during the last five years Abar has done nothing for the area.
Chaudhry Saad, a voter from the constituency, said that the PTI MPAs are very hardworking people, though Kiyani is not aware of the constituency too much but has edged over his opponent because of his experience penal.
He said Abrar did nothing for resolution of water, education and health issues in the area and people wanted to vote a person who could resolve their issues because Abrar even did not once highlight their issues on the floor of the house.
He said that PML-N fielded Usama Chaudhry in PP-14 and Malik Iftikhar Ahmed in PP-15, however, there is lack of coordination among the PML-N penal as everyone could be seen seeking votes for themselves instead of a party or penal. However, he said that on the other hand, PTI candidates are seeking votes not for candidates but for the party which is plus point.
However, Saad advised the PTI leaders to be vigilant on the election day, as PML-N candidates are smart enough to manipulate elections by resorting to violence at polling stations where they felt PTI is winning so as to close them before time or waste time as PML-N leadership did in 2013 elections.
However, some political observers were of the view that Malik Abrar was the trump card of PML-N victory in the local bodies’ elections of RCB and CCB and the party’s candidates had won local elections against PPP and PTI some two years ago. 11 wards each in RCB and CCB are represented by the PML-N members, which they believed would make a lot of difference in the elections.
They said that Abrar was the only PML-N candidate who secured his seat from the Rawalpindi city in 2013 elections when PTI swept the area almost, hence he has the ability to retain his seat once again.