When it comes to brinkmanship, former leader of the opposition and senior PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is a man to beat both within his party and otherwise.
Last month when a majority within the party leadership was for the selection of the caretaker prime minister at the parliamentary committee level, Chaudhry Nisar wanted the decision to be made by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
According to a party insider, even party chief Nawaz Sharif was in favour of selecting the caretaker prime minister by the committee, but he too had to fall in line with Chaudhry Nisar because of his sheer opposition.
The party source said Chaudhry Nisar was overconfident that the ECP would vote for his nominee Justice (retired) Nasir Aslam Zahid. However, in the end the commission picked the octogenarian Justice (retired) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, who initially stood no chance of being selected as the caretaker prime minister.
Chaudhry Nisar was again aggressive in his argument for the award of party tickets to the candidates of his liking within the Rawalpindi division.
“Chaudhry Nisar is someone who doesn’t compromise on his personal likes and dislikes and is in the habit of fighting till the end,” one of his colleagues, who also sat on the party’s parliamentary board for the award of the tickets, confided to Dawn.
Being a senior leader of the party, Chaudhry Nisar has been awarded party tickets for two National Assembly seats (NA-52, NA-53).
However, he wanted tickets for two provincial assembly constituencies - PP-6 and PP-7 - as well, a demand which the party leadership wasn’t in favour of. Although, the party allowed him to contest from PP-7 as a PML-N nominee, he failed to get the party nod for PP-6.
What ensued is an open secret now. Since the party leadership refused him a ticket for PP-7, Chaudry Nisar decided to contest as an independent candidate from the constituency.
Sarfraz Afzal, the winner of 2008 general elections from PP-7, who is also the nephew of an influential local PML-N leader Chaudhry Tanveer, was the other applicant for the ticket.
After failing to create consensus among the two applicants, the party decided to keep the seat open, asking both Mr Khan and Mr Afzal to contest as independent candidates.
Though Mr Afzal has withdrawn in favour of Chaudhary Nisar, the latter is contesting election for the seat as an independent candidate with the symbol of cow.
As a result, an interesting rather funny situation has emerged for Chaudhry Nisar in NA-52 and PP-7, where he will ask his voters to stamp his party election symbol that is tiger for the National Assembly seat and cow for the provincial seat.
Some in the party believed the confusion over election symbol might cost the party this seat which otherwise is considered a strong PML-N constituency.
A senior party leader, who didn’t want to be named on record because of the party discipline, said Chaudhry Nisar also won party ticket for Anjum Aqeel Khan for NA-48 otherwise nobody was in his favour.
Anjum Aqeel has caused lots of bad press for the party due to his alleged involvement in a multi-billion land scam.
This was the reason the party leadership was wary of awarding him the ticket.
However, Chaudhry Nisar was so vehement in his support for Mr Aqeel that the party couldn’t refuse him the ticket.
He also influenced award of three other National Assembly tickets within Rawalpindi division.
For NA-55, the PML-N leadership was in favour of Sardar Mohammad Naseem, a diehard party worker, but Chaudhry Nisar voted for Malik Shakeel Awan. As a result, Mr Naseem was accommodated in the provincial constituency of PP-12.
In NA-60, where last time Ayaz Amir had won with record votes for any member of the National Assembly for the PML-N, Chaudhry Nisar supported Major (retired) Tahir Iqbal, a former PML-Q lawmaker and federal minister.
In reaction, Mr Amir has announced his unconditional support for the PTI candidate from the constituency, guaranteeing a tough contest between the candidates.
In the neighbouring NA-59, Chaudhry Nisar’s brother-in-law Asif Ali Malik will be donning the party colour on May 11.
His opponent is Zain Elahi, son of none other than Major (retired) Tahir Sadiq who commands a strong vote bank in the area. Even the PML-N supporters in the area are not hopeful of Mr Malik’s win.
In the NA-61, a constituency fiercely contested within the Taman clan, Chaudhry Nisar has helped Sardar Mumtaz Khan Taman secure the party ticket against Sardar Mansoor Hayat Taman.
According to the party sources, Sardar Mansoor Taman, a comparatively strong candidate wanted the PML-N ticket, but in the end settled for the PTI ticket.
Sardar Faiz Taman, a former PML-N member of the National Assembly, who resigned because of his degree issue, is also supporting Sardar Mansoor.
It’s the same constituency where Chaudhry Pervez Elahi of the PML-Q will be flexing his muscles. On the face of it, the constituency presents a tough three-way contest.
If a senior PML-N leader is to be believed, because of Chaudhry Nisar’s choice of candidates within Rawalpindi division the party’s chances of winning the four NA seats are not encouraging, which could have been won safely by good selection of candidates.