Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have gone all out for the by-election in Chakwal’s PP-20, which is scheduled for today. This election might set up the course in the district for the upcoming general elections.
PP-20 has been a stronghold of the ruling PML-N since 1985 but it may not be as easy for the party to win this election due to many reasons. The major reasons are the disqualification of party chief Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, money laundering allegations and the controversial amendment in the election bill.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the archrival of the ruling party in Chakwal, has also managed to secure the support of PPP and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). This means that PTI will be able to give the ruling party a tough competition in these by-polls.
The seat on which the elections are to be held fell vacant on Oct 30 with the death of PML-N MPA Chaudhry Liaquat Ali Khan. He had won seven elections since 1985. But, Khan could not contest the elections in 2002 and 2008 due to the graduation restriction. His wife, Iffat Liaquat contested the elections in his place instead.
In 2002, she secured 34,901 votes. In contrast, Pakistan Muslim League Q candidate, Chaudhry Ejaz Hussein Farhat won by securing 41,283 votes. However, she won the 2008 elections by securing 50,039 votes against Mr. Farhat’s 42,992.
When authorities lifted the graduation condition, the Late Chaudhry Liaquat Ali Khan again contested the elections. He won the seat with 62,088 votes, the highest in the history of PP-20.
A Tight Battle
His 32-year-old son, Chaudhry Sultan Haider Ali will now contest the elections in the constituency for the first time. He is up against PTI’s Raja Tariq Mehmood Afzal. This will be Afzal’s first time contesting for a provincial assembly seat but he has been in politics for a long time.
The PPP fielded Nawab Taimoor but withdrew their candidate in favor of PTI. Meanwhile, the PAT did not field any candidate. Both the PPP and PAT have announced support for PTI in the election.
There are three other contestants in the polls- Chaudhry Nasir Abbas of the Tehreek-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and two local journalists Chaudhry Imran Qaiser Abbas and Mohammad Tufail. Mr. Abbas secured an Awami National Party ticket while Mr. Tufail founded his own political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaniyat. Interestingly Mr. Tufail was not awarded the party symbol he wanted. He wanted the symbol of rosary beads but the ECP canceled all religious symbols recently.
A Battle Between PTI & PML-N
However, the real fight is between the PML-N and the PTI and leaders of both parties seem confident.
PTI believes that because its candidate is from an influential family, he will be able to secure more votes. This will potentially include voters of the Sardar Ghulam Abbas group as PTI’s candidate was associated with the group for a long time. A rival of the PML-N since long, Sardar Ghulam Abbas joined the party in 2016. His decision of joining the party he had opposed all this time did not go well with his voters and the move has had many consequences.
Chairman of Union Council Dullah, Sardar Arif, who was a close aide of Mr Abbas, recently joined the PTI which has made the PTI hopeful that this will at least win them the support of former MPA Chaudhry Ejaz Hussein Farhat, even if he does not formally join the party.
“PTI will give PML-N a tough time as the party is getting stronger every day,” said Raja Yasir Humayun Sarfaraz, the party’s senior vice president for the northern region.
“I am very optimistic because people in the rural areas are announcing their support for the PTI,” he said.
PML-N’s Chaudhry Sultan Haider Ali Khan, on the other hand, said he thinks his party will easily win the elections.
“Frictions are usual at the time of any elections and our path to victory is very clear as we have the support of the people,” he said.
We’ll know in the next 24 hours as to who will win these elections. PML-N and PTI, both have been campaigning for a while now and it seems a close fight. Having said that, Chakwal which was once considered a strong hold of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, definitely isn’t anymore and this probably goes in favor of PTI.