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Rift in PML-N, PTI in NA-15 Abbottabad over party tickets


June 2, 2018

ABBOTTABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) face a difficult decision to choose from aspirants of the party ticket for the National Assembly constituency NA-15 Abbottabad-1.

The National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi and veteran politician and adviser to Prime Minister on Aviation, Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan, have applied for the PML-N ticket from this constituency. Both are lobbying in the party for the ticket and remain hopeful. The two PML-N leaders have reportedly been at odds for quite some time due to internal party politics.

Sardar Mahtab is member of the PML-N parliamentary board formed to shortlist the candidates and award the party tickets for the upcoming election. Sardar Mahtab had contested the 2013 election from NA-17, now NA-16, and lost to the PTI candidate Dr Azhar Jadoon by a margin of 26,828 votes. Owing to the changes in the constituency after delimitation, both the PML-N leaders consider NA-15 as their home constituency with better chances of victory.

Sardar Mahtab has yet to start his election campaign in the constituency but Senator Javed Abbasi is holding corner meetings to muster support for contesting the polls. Being a seasoned politician, he has not criticised his detractors, at least in public but no one has doubts about his rivalry with Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

Some of the video clips have gone viral in which Murtaza Javed Abbasi is publicly criticising Sardar Mahtab and his supporters in the PML-N, primarily due to the tussle for party ticket.

Sardar Mahtab group enjoys backing of the PML-N President Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Hence, he stands bright chances of securing the party ticket. On the other hand, Murtaza Abbasi, who is provincial general secretary of the PML-N, is supported by the provincial President Amir Muqam and Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar, the son-in-law of the PML-N supreme leader, Nawaz Sharif.

Safdar, in a recent video message, assured Murtaza Abbasi of his support for getting the PML-N ticket. The sources in the PML-N confided to The News that Sardar Mahtab had been promised the party ticket for NA-15. Murtaza Abbasi had been conveyed by Shahbaz Sharif to take a break this time as he might be considered for party ticket to contest election for the Senate in future. The sources close to Murtaza Abbasi group claimed that he might tacitly support Sardar Sher Bahadur in case he was denied the party ticket.

They claimed that Sardar Mahtab enjoyed support of Senator Javed Abbasi, another PML-N leader from Abbottabad, and ex-MPA, Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha. Meanwhile, former Deputy Speaker, National Assembly, Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob and former Abbottabad district nazim, Sardar Sher Bahadur, were vying for the PTI ticket.

Sardar Sher Bahadur is an old worker of the PTI and belongs to the Ali Asghar Khan "Nazriyati" (ideological group). He was denied the party ticket in the 2015 local government election for union council nazim. He contested election as an independent candidate against the PTI nominee by a huge margin and later rejoined the PTI.

Sardar Sher Bahadur was again denied the party ticket in favour of Ali Khan Jadoon, son of the former federal minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon, in the election for District Nazim of Abbottabad. He opposed the PTI decision and contested and won the election with support from the PML-N.

The PTI' took disciplinary action against him and after a long judicial battle was de-seated as District Nazim. Sardar Sher Bahadur claims to have remained loyal to the PTI through thick and thin. He was one of the founders of PTI in Abbottabad and took part in the ‘dharna’ in Islamabad along with his supporters.

Despite the ups and down, he is hopeful of getting the PTI ticket from NA-15. Sardar Yaqoob, on the other hand, contested the 2013 national assembly elections from NA-18 (now NA-15) on the PTI ticket and bagged 41,391 votes against Murtaza Javed Abbasi who managed to win the seat by securing 69,848 votes.

Sardar Yaqoob is a strong contender for the PTI ticket as he has the support of the party's local leadership. At a recent Iftar dinner, Sardar Sher Bahadur had announced that he would contest the National Assembly election come what may. He said, "If I am awarded the party ticket that will be an added benefit for me. Otherwise I am all set to contest the election and hopefully win it.”

Local political pundits consider him a strong choice if he manages to secure the support of ailing Sardar Haider Zaman, who is also known as Baba Sardar Haider Zaman because of his old age.

The situation in this constituency seems interesting. In case of a straight contest between Sardar Mahtab and Sardar Yaqoob, the former is expected to have a clear edge. In case of a trilateral contest among Sardar Mahtab, Sardar Yaqoob and Sardar Sher Bahadur, Sardar Mahtab would have an advantage as not only the latter two would divide the PTI vote, but also both belong to the same Karlal clan and its votes considered to be a very important factor in the constituency would also be shared between the two.