LAHORE:High resentment in the party cadres against Malik Riaz, the former MNA of 2008 and 2013 may put the PML-N under a real test in upcoming general elections in case he is awarded ticket again from NA-123.
Under the fresh delimitations, previous NA-118, Lahore-1 has now become NA-123 from where once again, its two time winner Malik Riaz is aspiring for the party ticket. In the upcoming general elections, a contest is expected between PML-N and PTI whereas PPP, once a party with noted vote bank in the constituency is in severe crisis.
The PML-N aspirants for the ticket for NA seat, including Malik Riaz, who has served as MPA and twice as MNA, President PML-N Lahore Pervaiz Malik as well as nearly a dozen more, including former MPA Ghazali Salim Butt and various Union Council Chairmen of the area. The PML-N, however, is yet to finalise its candidate and on Sunday, meeting of the parliamentary board was also held at Model Town in which interviews of aspirants were conducted.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, after a review has decided to pitch Mehr Wajid Azim from the NA seat whereas Khalid Gujjer, a close confidant of Senator Chaudhry Sarwar is also in the list of aspirants. Engineer Yasir Gilani, a pioneer member of the party is also expected to get party ticket from PP-144 where once again, he is facing Khalid Gujjer in the race. From PP-145, the applicants for the PTI ticket include Farooq Khan, Malik Asif Javaid, Junaid Razzaq, Iftikhar Yusuf and Malik Shahzad.
The PPP has so far kept this seat open for Asif Hashmi, former chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Board, who is currently under detention over different charges. Hashmi being the ETPB chairman has enjoyed a good support from local people owing to his role in shifting of toll plaza to Kala Shah Kaku. In case no member from his family contests the poll, PPP Lahore President Haji Aziz-ur-Rehman Chan or Zahid Iqbal could be the choice of the party for this seat.
On provincial seats, names of Shahbaz Bhatti and Zahid Malik are also doing rounds in the PPP circles. Historical significance of the seat The constituency can rightly be called a gateway to Lahore as it starts from historic area of Shahdara, just close to Lahore-Sheikhupura connecting point and a home to population living in both sides of River Ravi.
The current NA-123, almost comprises of the areas that were part of previous NA-118 like Jiya Musa, Nain Sukh, Timber Market, Sabzi Mandi, Badami Bagh, Siddiqia Colony, Khokher Road, Khokher Village and other adjoining parts.
A Christian dominated area named Joseph Colony also falls in the same constituency. Major clans of the constituency include Arains, Rajput, Kashmiris, Kakkay Zais, Gujjers, Mughals and a noticeable population of Pakhtoons residing in Pathan Colony also belong to the area.
As per the details provided by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the total number of registered voters in NA-123 are 397,399 that include 227,033 male and 170,366 female voters. Two provincial constituencies that fall under the NA seat are PP-144 and PP-145. The number of registered voters in PP-144 are 187,819 whereas in PP-145, total registered number of voters are 187,521.
The constituency comprises of Union Councils, including UC-1 to 16 and from 18 to 22 completely and UC-23 partially. Almost all UC chairmen belong to the PML-N, including two those who joined after winning as independent candidates.
Historically, since 2008, the area remained a battleground between the PML-N and the PPP with Muslim League and its allied parties winning almost every time since 1988. In last 30 years, PPP never won the NA seat but won twice, in 1988 and 2002 on provincial seats in form of Aslam Gurdaspuri and Samiullah Khan respectively.
In 1988, Hafiz Muhammad Hussain Ansari, with the support of Muslim League and other like-minded parties won from this seat after a tough clash with PPP’s Sheikh Rafique Ahmed when the constituency was NA-92.
In 1990, Humayon Akhter Khan under the banner of Islami Jamhuri Ittehad won while defeating PPP’s Sheikh Rafique. However, the constituency came into limelight when in 1993, after the formation of PML-N, its President Nawaz Sharif also fielded himself from the then NA-92, that also includes the current area from Shahdara to Siddiqia Colony.
Nawaz Sharif won from Shahdara area while defeating PPP’s Haji Aziz-ur-Rehman Chan with a margin of around 20,000 votes. In the by-polls, another member of Sharif family, Mian Abbas Sharif was also pitched from the Shahdara area that used to fall in then NA-92 and won after tough contest against PPP.
In 1997, from NA-92, former governor of Punjab Mian Azhar was fielded by the PML-N who won from this seat with a huge margin over PPP and PML-J joint candidate Mian Mehmood Ahmed.
By 2002, under the new delimitations, the previous NA-92 area was bifurcated and a new constituency came into existence in the form of NA-118.
From NA-118, the winner in 2002 polls was the joint candidate of the PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami Hafiz Salman Butt who defeated the then PML-Q President Mian Azhar. On the provincial seats, PPP bagged one in form of Samiullah Khan and PML-N clinched other with Dr Asad Ashraf.
In 2008 elections, which were held with Sharifs back to Pakistan, the PML-N fielded Malik Riaz, once a former MPA of 1997 who hails from Shahdara. Malik Riaz won that contest over PPP’s Asif Hashmi and PML-Q’s Mian Azhar.
The PML-N also won both the provincial seats in form of Rana Muhammad Iqbal and Dr Asad Ashraf. The PML-N continued its winning streak after it once again fielded Malik Riaz and on provincial seats, which were PP-137 (Shahdara side) and PP-138 (Badami Bagh side) were also won by the PML-N candidates in form of Khwaja Imran Nazir and Ghazali Salim Butt.
The PML-N government also picked one of its MPAs as a Provincial Minister for Primary Health Care in form of Khwaja Imran Nazir.
Constituency combating various challenges Despite possessing huge political significance and being a constituency of VIPs, most of the areas of the constituency have been a picture of neglect.
The population is combating various challenges such as poor infrastructure, non-availability of clean drinking water, sewage, sanitation and above all, apathy of the elected representatives. A survey conducted by The News in NA-123 found people complaining over absence of their elected representatives, including MNA, MPAs.
In the area of PP-144, which is situated along with the Ravi bed, a huge ground comprising acres of land has been turned into a filth depot. The ground named ‘Katta’ ground is situated in Union Council 10, falling in PP-144, the area of Shahdara was seen filled with garbage and buffalos roaming around.
“We used to play cricket here, but its a matter long ago, this ground has turned into a dumping site now” said Fazeel Ahmed, a local resident.
Fazeel went on to say that nobody bothered to visit this area and situation was worsening. In the adjacent areas, situation was also not different when it comes to sanitation. However, the situation of main road that leads to the residence of MNA Malik Riaz was quite better but once again, when the adjoining streets were surveyed, situation was awful.
In Union Council 14, which is the home UC of the sitting MNA, local people were seen complaining strongly against him for paying no heed to address their woes. “I have been residing here for over 30 years, my entire family lives here but no body bothers to cover this drain where not a child, but even a grown man could drown” said Ghulam Rasool, a member of Bhullar braderi living close to the street where Malik Riaz’s house is situated.
Sufi Abdul Rehman, a member of Mayo clan while talking to The News said that in rain, water accumulates here in the street and we had to drain it out ourselves. Another local resident, however, hailed UC Chairman Malik Nadeem for listening to the complaints of the people.
In most of adjoining areas, large ponds of stagnant water are seen which are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and add to the woes of local population. With this, there is some relief for people in form of a well-developed public park where the name plate of the local MNA is installed.
In PP-145, the area which comprises of city parts like Badami Bagh, Siddiqia Colony, Laurex Colony, situation was not different. Huge piles of garbage and waste discharged from factories situated in residential areas have multiplied the people's problems.
“Just see this dirty water, it is being discharged from a local factory where plastic bags are re-cycled but no official visits this part” said Waheed Khan, a resident of Laurex colony, situated in PP-145.
In most of the areas, even the roads situated close to Masajid are full of solid waste which had gathered in bulk but not removed by the staff concerned. Local PML-N supporters also believe that only credentials of the MNA were his regular presence outside Supreme Court over the appearance of party leader Nawaz Sharif.
2018 elections and candidates
The PML-N, so far being the strongest party of the constituency has largest number of ticket aspirants who want party ticket from NA and PP seats.
From the NA seat, the noted aspirants for party ticket include Malik Riaz, President PML-N Lahore Pervez Malik, former MPA Ghazali Salim Butt. On PP-144 seat, there is a long list of aspirants for PML-N ticket but the noted figures include former MPAs Samiullah Khan, who has been in the PML-N for last five years, former MPA Rana Iqbal Khan, his son Rana Nasar, Imran Goraya and former Health Minister, last time winner Khawaja Imran Nazir.
From PP-145, the noted aspirants include last time winner Ghazali Salim Butt, former PML-Q MPA and now a PML-N stalwart Haji Qaiser Amin Butt, Deputy Mayor Mushtaq Mughal and others.
However, it is a tough situation for party leadership to keep its vote bank intact for multiple reasons.
Malik Riaz, the MNA of this area in 2008 and 2013, is facing severe criticism from local people as well the elected local government representatives of the constituency who want party to pitch a different candidate now. Not only this, even the members of his own party, while talking to The News have levelled serious allegations against the former MNA while accusing him of awarding contracts to his favourite contractors, influencing his position over development work, backing corrupt elements, including a senior official and showing constant apathy to the die-hard workers.
Malik Nadeem, the Union Council Chairman from UC-14, who belongs to same clan, Kakkay Zai whose part Malik Riaz is, while talking to The News said he wouldn’t support the decision if the party fields Riaz again.
“Anyone other than Malik Riaz is expected but not he" said Malik Nadeem while talking to The News.
Mushtaq Mughal, Deputy Chairman Wagah Town, who got elected for the fifth consecutive term in local governments from Siddiqia Colony area while talking to The News said that not a single penny was spent on Badami Bagh area by the MNA during his tenure.
Chaudhry Afzal, Union Council 13 chairman while talking to The News said out of millions of rupees fund, his MNA didn’t even spend a penny on the development of his UC.
Rana Nasar, another party stalwart while talking to The News said that TMO Ravi Town enjoys complete backing of the MNA who acts as per his instructions. Rana Nasar said he himself filed an application against the TMO and the chief minister ordered inquiry against him but the MNA used his influence and the official was once again posted on the previous post. TMO Malik Abrar when contacted said allegations against him were totally baseless as for last two and a half years, powers had been designated to the elected representatives.
“How could I influence my position to favour any MNA or MPA when I am not authorised to do so” said Malik Abrar.
Tough contest expected
With the PTI emerging as a potential threat, the PML-N is facing a real test and split in its ranks could cost him high as majority of the Union Council chairmen from ruling parties are publicly expressing no confidence against Malik Riaz. Moreover, in case the PTI fields Mehr Wajid Azim who is an Arain and remained a runner-up in a by-poll against Mian Marghub after a neck on neck contest, the PML-N will also have to take measures to counter this factor and field a candidate who could be acceptable to party voters.
Talking to The News, Malik Riaz stated at the moment, different groups in the constituency were working against him but he had been a committed, die-hard worker of the party. He said that he stood with the party in critical times and belonged to Shahdara whereas both the MPAs were picked from different areas.
He said due to the lack of coordination of both MPAs with people for being not local, proper attention couldn’t be paid to the constituency but despite that, he did his best as the PML-N stalwart.
Malik Riaz said that through his efforts, Shahdara received a 300 bedded hospital, degree college, number of water filtration plants and playgrounds. He also said that the huge reception at Shahdara during the July long march of party leader Nawaz Sharif was the reflection of people’s trust in the PML-N and if party expressed confidence in him, he would bag more votes than he got in 2013. Malik Riaz also said that he had no role in influencing the local officials or the contractors.