RAWALPINDI, April 30: Unlike other constituencies of the garrison city, NA-54, comprising the areas of cantonment, will see a contest between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

In NA-55 and NA-56, PML-N may be facing tough competition from Awami Muslim League (AML) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) joint candidate Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Imran Khan. But it is in a relatively strong position in NA-54. The reason is the absence of heavyweight from PTI and the development work done by the previous PML-N led provincial government.

PML-N candidate and former MNA Malik Ibrar is facing PPP’s Zamrud Khan, former managing director of Pakistan Baitul Mal. He has admirers in the public and retired army officials.

NA-54 comprises Peshawar Road from Golra Mor to Tench Bhatta including areas around General Headquarters (GHQ), Lalazar, Westridge, Misrial Road and adjoining areas. It has a total 300,932 votes as against 270,960 in 2008, and the constituency will have a total 203 polling stations. Political parties including PPP, PML-N, PTI, JI, MQM, JUI-F, JUP-N have fielded eight candidates while 15 are contesting as independent.

In the 2002 elections, Zamarud Khan won the seat by defeating PML-N chairman Raja Mohammad Zafarul Haq, with a margin of 2,600 votes.

But in 2008, he lost this seat to Malik Abrar of PML-N, who managed to get 58,228 votes. Zamrud Khan got 33, 749 votes and PML-Q’s Raja Basharat secured 10,400 votes.

The religious parties have fielded their separate candidates. Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan central leader Shah Mohammad Awais Noorani, Maulana Mohammad Ayaz of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal and Rizwan Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami are in the election fray.

Except for JI candidate, all other candidates are running their campaigns in their respective  mosques.

JI fielded relatively young candidate Rizwan Ahmed of 29-year-old and he is running his campaign but the vote bank of religious party is apparently scattered.

The political analyst are of the view that despite the sympathy vote after the assassination of PPP chairwoman Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 the PPP lost the seat in 2008.

It would be even more difficult for it to win this seat this time keeping in view its five-year performance, load shedding of electricity, gas and CNG.

However, PPP candidate Zamrud Khan was hopeful of winning the seat, giving two points to prove his claim.

“I worked for the poor in the area as a managing director of Baitul Mal without any political discrimination and raise the voice of people in the meetings of his party and got relief for the area people,” he said.

The other strong point, he explained, is the division of anti-PPP votes between PML-N and PTI.

“Two religious leaders from JUI-F Ayaz Chaudhry and JUI-N Shah Mohammad Awais Noorani from Karachi are also contesting the elections and they will snatch away maximum votes, which used to be cast in favour of PML-N in the past,” said Zamrud Khan while talking to Dawn.

He was happy to see the better election campaign of PTI and said they were taking away the PML-N votes. “The PPP votes are intact,” he concluded.

But the absence of any development work by the PPP-led federal government in the cantonment areas has eroded its votes.

Rawalpindi Cantonment Board falls in the jurisdiction of the federal government and ministry of defence runs it. This was also said by PML-N candidate Malik Abrar. He said that the cantonment areas people supported Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif for their commitment to the country.

“The people elected Shahbaz Sharif in 2008 from PP-10. He vacated the seat but he done over Rs3 billion development works in this area to express his love for this constituency,” Malik Abrar said while talking to Dawn.

He said that the residents of this constituency were fed up with the wrong policies of the previous PPP-led coalition which pushed the people in darkness.

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