Raja Afzal’s defection a setback for PML-N in Jhelum
From Our Correspondent
JHELUM: The current political scenario for the coming elections is unclear as no political party has decided its candidates so far, while politics is being played at the drawing room level in the district for the last two months.
There are two National Assembly seats – NA-62 & NA-63 – and four Punjab Assembly seats – PP-24, 25, 26 and 27 – in the district. Joining of the PPP by PML-N former senator Raja Afzal and his sons MNAs Raja Asad and Raja Safdar is a great setback to the PML-N. However, it was evident due to strained relations between Raja Afzal with Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Ch Nisar Ali Khan for the last several months.
Owing to their strained relations, the Mian brothers had to leave PP-26 open in the by-elections. The PML-N did not learn any lesson after the polls and as a result, it has now several independent groups without any leadership. The PML-N local leaders are announcing their personal decisions in a funny way and every former or sitting MPA is claiming to be a candidate for the slot of MNA. The PPP has an edge after joining by Raja Muhammad Afzal who was elected MNA several times and remained a senator. He was a member of the PML-N central executive committee as well.
Pundits are of the view that there is no PPP leader capable of winning a seat in the district. “The joining of the PPP by Raja Afzal will boost the party morale in the district, which is among the districts where the PPP and the PML-Q have yet to make seat adjustment for the general elections,” they add.
Former district nazim Ch Farrukh Altaf is affiliated with the PML-Q, while his uncle and former federal minister Ch Shahbaz Hussain with his cousin former special adviser to PM Ch Fawad Hussain have already joined the PPP. Efforts are being made to declare Ch Farrukh Altaf for NA-62 and Raja Afzal for NA-63 as unanimous candidates of the PPP and the PML-Q. However, candidates for the Punjab Assembly seats are still undecided because nothing could be finalised between the PML-Q and the PPP till the adjustment for the National Assembly seats.
In the previous elections, the PML-N made a clean sweep by winning all the six seats. However, it seems difficult for the PML-N to maintain the same position due to leaving of Raja Afzal after remaining with the party for 30 years.
However, the PML-N has a strong candidate in NA-63 in the form of former MNA Nawabzada Iqbal Mehdi who could not contest the last elections due to the BA condition. It is very difficult for the PML-N to decide the ticket in NA-62 as former MPA Ch Nadeem Khadim was disqualified for dual nationality. Later, his father Ch Khadim Hussain was elected in the by-elections.
The situation is very interesting as former provincial minister and sitting MPA Ch Khadim Hussain want to remain in PP-26. He will not contest for the National Assembly seat. His brother Ch Lal Hussain who had been PPP district president and has family links with Qamar Zaman Kaira also wants to contest for NA-62 on the PML-N ticket. The PML-N has difficulties in selecting candidates for NA-62, PP-24, 25, 26 and 27 as some expected candidates are liked by the PML-N leaders, but they are unpopular among local leaders and voters.
PML-N MPA from PP-24 Ch Saqlain has been showing a confused thinking for the last one year. His brother and Sohawa former tehsil nazim Col (r) Taj has joined the PTI, while Ch Saqlain too informally joined it several months ago. Though he has participated in all the meetings and processions of the PTI, he denies his participation. Hoardings bearing his portraits with Imran Khan and other PTI leaders could be seen across the district, but the PML-N has not moved a reference against him. Ch Saqlain, who can be a strong candidate of the PML-N, has given confusing statements these days.
Talking to The News, Ch Saqlain said that the PML-N and the PPP should contact him as both parties needed a strong candidate. “I will leave my options open and will contest from NA-62 as an independent candidate if both parties did not give tickets to me and my brother Ch Taj for PP-24.” On the other hand, he said that he had bargained with the PTI for NA-62 and PP-24.
A big setback is expected to the PML-Q due to Ch Farrukh Altaf’s meetings with Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif. However, the meetings have been stopped due to protest by the PML-N local leaders. PML-N district president Ch Boota Javed and secretary general Hafiz Ijaz Janjua said that entire local leadership would resign if Ch Farrukh Altaf joined the party. Currently talks are going on between Ch Farrukh Altaf and Raja Afzal for seat adjustment. Nawabzada Iqbal Mehdi, who is leading a party group, is trying his best to get his candidates, including his son-in-law, nominated by the PML-N leadership.
On the other hand, the PTI district chapter suffered a setback in the party elections when North Region organiser Usmanur Rehman Chohan was beaten by Malik Naeem, an unknown person, for the slot of the district president. As the Jamaat-e-Islami has a small number of voters in the district, its candidate is not in a position to secure over thousands of votes and it is evident from the previous poll results. Pundits say that the real contest would be among the candidates of mainstream political parties – PML-N, PPP and PML-Q – and both the latter parties could counter the PML-N in a better way after making seat adjustment with each other.