ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has stayed out of the race for the National Assembly constituency NA-63 Rawalpindi, for which a by-election would be held on October 14, along with other vacant federal and provincial seats.
He neither filed his nomination papers nor sponsored any candidate or committed support to anyone. He has been in London for some time, detaching himself from the ongoing electoral hustle. He was seen attending Begum Kulsoom Nawaz's funeral prayers at the London central mosque last week. In the July 25 general elections, Chaudhry Nisar contested two national and provincial constituencies each in Rawalpindi district as an independent because of his estrangement from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). He could win only one Punjab Assembly seat. He has preferred not to take oath as a provincial lawmaker although, under the law, there is no time restriction for doing so.
His arch-rival, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, now the petroleum minister, who defeated him in the scramble for two national seats, NA-59 (Chakri) and NA-63 (Taxila), has vacated NA-63, where he has been strong historically. He has retained NA-59, where the former interior minister used to hold an edge.
Ghulam Sarwar won NA-59 with a lead of 22,676 votes, securing 89,055 ballots against Chaudhry Nisar’s 66,369 votes. Similarly, he secured NA-63 by a margin of 35,219 ballots, bagging 100,986 votes versus his opponent’s tally of 65,767.
The PML-N fared poorly in NA-59 and NA-63 in the general elections. Its ticket holder Mumtaz Khan clinched just 22,966 votes in NA-63 and the incarcerated Raja Qamarul Islam received 21,754 ballots in NA-59.
There was a possibility of Chaudhry Nisar jumping in the electoral fight for NA-59 if Ghulam Sarwar Khan had vacated it. The minister retained NA-63 on the premise that his nominee would retain it. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has fielded his son, Mansoor Hayat Khan, for the by-election for this seat. The PML-N has sponsored a nephew of its wealthy former member of the Punjab Assembly, Umar Farooq, in place of Mumtaz Khan.
Interesting contests would take place in several constituencies in the October 14 by-polls.
Lahore’s NA-131 seat is one of them. Khawaja Saad Rafique, who lost to PTI Chairman Imran Khan by a nail-biting margin of 680 votes, is again in the run. He is challenged by Hamayun Akhtar, who joined the PTI a few weeks back. Humayun’s brother Haroon Akhtar is a PML-N senator and had worked as the erstwhile PML-N prime minister's special assistant on revenue. They are related to leading PTI politician Jehangir Tareen. Another stimulating fight would be for the NA-124 Lahore seat. The PML-N has nominated former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who lost to Sadaqat Abbasi from his native NA-57 Murree constituency and to Imran Khan in NA-53 Islamabad by huge margins. The PTI has fielded Ghulam Mohyuddin in NA-124. The seat was vacated by Hamza Shahbaz (146,306 ballots), now the PML-N leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, who secured it on July 25 with a winning margin of 65,287 over the PTI’s Nauman Qaisar.
For NA-53, the PTI has awarded its ticket to Ali Awan, who would face the PML-N’s Raja Waqar Mumtaz. Earlier, it was thought that former minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, who lost his NA-54 federal capital constituency to the PTI, would be the PML-N candidate for NA-53.
Sheikh Rashid Shafique, nephew of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, has been sponsored by the PTI in NA-60 Rawalpindi, where polling had been postponed by the Supreme Court after the last-minute conviction of Hanif Abbasi. At the time, Sheikh Rashid was the candidate of his Awami Muslim League from this constituency. The PML-N has fielded Sajjad Khan, a former tehsil nazim.
In NA-35 Bannu, where Imran Khan defeated Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) nominee Akram Durrani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl in the general elections, the MMA has nominated Durrani’s son Zahid.
The contest for NA-65 Chakwal seems to have tilted in favour of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat. Speculation has it that PML-N candidate Sardar Faiz Tamman is having second thoughts about taking part in the race, which would embarrass his party. Earlier, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was to have contested it, but now his son Salik Hussain is likely to be in the run. The seat was previously won by Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who secured 158,477 votes against PML-N nominee Muhammad Faez Malik’s 106,514 ballots.
Of the 11 national seats for which by-polls would be held, six were vacated by PTI winners who either won from more than one constituency or opted for the provincial assemblies. They include NA-35 Bannu (Imran Khan), NA-53 Islamabad (Imran Khan), NA-56 Attock (Maj. (retd) Tahir Sadiq), NA-63 Rawalpindi (Ghulam Sarwar Khan), NA-131 Lahore (Imran Khan) and NA-243 Karachi (Imran Khan). Two seats – NA-69 Gujrat and NA-65 Chakwal – were vacated by Pervez Elahi, who retained his Punjab Assembly seat and became its speaker. One PML-N seat – NA-124 Lahore - was left by Hamza Shahbaz.
Polling for two seats – NA-60 Rawalpindi and NA-103 Faisalabad – was postponed on July 25 due to Hanif Abbasi’s conviction and a contestant’s suicide.
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