Ž“Voters here love humility. They don’t like arrogance. Down-to-earth candidates here have an edge over their arrogant rivals,” says Zafar Raan, a resident of NA-157 Multan-VI constituency where by-elections are being held on September 11.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), by-polls are also scheduled in PP-139 Sheikhupura and PP-241 Bahawalnagar constituencies on the same day.
Also on September 25, by-elections are scheduled for the nine seats that fell vacant after the National Assembly speaker accepted the resignations of 11 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers. Former prime minister Imran Khan then sprang a surprise announcing that he will be contesting from all nine seats.
After the announcement of the schedule, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) started consultations with its coalition partners to field joint candidates for the 10 National Assembly seats. The NA-108 Faisalabad and NA-118 Nankana Sahib, where elections will be held on September 25, are the only such constituencies in the Punjab. The ruling alliance will also field joint candidates in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.
Ahead of the September 25 by-polls, the Multan constituency has gained nationwide attention as two of Pakistan’s leading political families, the Gilanis and the Qureshis, are once again facing each other. Former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani’s son, Syed Ali Musa Gillani, is running against former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s daughter, Mehr Bano Qureshi.
The seat fell vacant after Zain Qureshi ran for Punjab Assembly constituency in the recently held by-polls and was elected.
According to the ECP, the total number of registered voters in Multan-VI is 390,725: male 214,620 and female 176,105.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf have strong following in the region and large vote banks in the constituency. The PPP and the PML-N are fielding a joint candidate under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
In the last general election in 2018, Qureshi’s son Zain Hussain had defeated PPP’s Syed Ali Musa Gillani. Now, Gillani has once again been fielded against Mehr Bano Qureshi.
The ECP’s final list of candidates for the constituency contains the names of Mehar Bano Qureshi (PTI) and Ali Musa Gillani (PPP), as well as seven independents: Waseem Abbas, Salman Sahu, Muhammad Idrees, Saif Ahmad Qureshi, Irshad Ali Babar, Muhammad Khalil, Tahir Ahmad, Muhammad Saleem and Naseem Hussain.
“All the thirteen PDM parties are supporting Ali Musa Gillani under a formula agreed among the parties,” a senior PPP leader said. “It was decided that the runner up candidate in the last general election will be the PDM candidate.”
Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani is focusing on winning the support of union council chairmen and vice chairmen.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf have strong following in the constituency. The PPP and the PML-N have fielded a joint candidate under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). In the last general election in 2018, Qureshi’s son Zain Hussain had defeated PPP’s Syed Ali Musa Gillani. Gillani has now been fielded against Mehr Bano Qureshi.
On the other hand, Shah Mehmood Qureshi also claims to have received assurances of support from elders of several clans from the constituency.
Former federal minister Javed Hashmi has announced his support for Ali Musa Gillani. Hashmi has strong ties in the constituency where he once started his career in electoral politics. The shrine of Hazrat Makhdoom Rashid, an ancestor of Hashmi, commands thousands of followers.
Former federal minister Sikandar Hayat Bosan has announced his support for Mehr Bano Qureshi. Bosan too has great influence over voters in six union councils of NA-157 Multan-IV.
Securing his support was a great achievement for Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Sikandar Hayat Bosan is not part of any political party currently as the PML-N had refused him its ticket in 2018 for violating party discipline and developing ties with the PTI.
Jahangir Khan Tareen had inducted Bosan in the PTI, but Shah Mehmood Qureshi inducted Ahmed Hassan Dehr to counter his candidacy. The PTI finally dropped Bosan and issued its ticket to Ahmed Hassan Dehr for the 2018 election. The PML-N too then refused Bosan its ticket. Dehr voted against the PTI in the no confidence move against Imran Khan. Later, the PML-N promised him a party ticket for the next general election.
Javed Hashmi has been a staunch political rival to Shah Mehmood Qureshi. This explains in part his support for Ali Musa Gillani. The constituency has been the electoral home ground for Javed Hashmi.
In the 1988 general elections, the constituency was known as NA-120 Multan-Khanewal. Chaudhry Abdur Rehman Wahla had contested on a PPP ticket and won it by securing 50,947 votes. He had defeated Javed Hashmi of the IJI who had polled 48,086 votes.
In the general elections of 1990, Javed Hashmi, had once again, contested on the IJI ticket and won the seat by securing 70,025 votes. He had defeated Khalid Iqbal Randhawa of the PDA who won 52,881 votes.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi contested his first election from the constituency in 1993 on a PPP ticket. He polled 73,289 votes to Javed Hashmi’s 54,385. Hashmi contested on a PML-N ticket and lost.
In the general election of 1997, Hashmi (PML-N) won with 59,675 votes, defeating Qureshi (PPP) who received 49,346 votes.
In general elections of 2002, Shah Mahmood Qureshi contested on a PPP ticket and defeated Hashmi. The constituency was renamed NA-148 in 2002.
In the eight past general elections from 1988 to 2018, Javed Hashmi has won twice (1990 and 1997), Shah Mehmood Qureshi has won twice (1993 and 2002), Ali Musa Gillani once (in 2008) and Zain Qureshi once (in 2018). Abdul Ghafar Dogar won the seat in 2013.
Meanwhile, Raan, who hosted this scribe at his dera in Kotheywala village, was the president of the National Students Federation in the 1980s. He had participated in the countrywide students’ movement against Zia-ul Haq and is still politically active. “I can tell you that voters here are very traditional. I pray for the victory of a humble person. So do a majority of voters in my constituency,” he says.
The writer is bureau chief of The News in Multan. He may be reached at trisign69yahoo.com