TAXILA: Covered under thick layer of dust generated by constant stone crushing in the surrounding hills, two arch political rivals are battling out for NA-53 in the Taxila valley.
One of them is known for changing his political loyalties but keeping close to his constituents and serving their interests.
The other believes his stature as a national level leader will help him retain his seat which he also won in 2008.
Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who started his political career with the PPP, joined the PML-Q after winning the 2002 elections as an independent candidate. He is now the standard bearer of Imran Khan in the Taxila city. He is faced-off with none other than Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, former leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and one of the PML-N stalwarts.
Chaudhry Nisar has had won this seat in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2008, elections. Mr Sarwar only managed to defeat his archrival in 2002 election, however, remained in close fight during all these elections. Vote difference between the two had varied between 10,000 and 20,000.
However, with the rising of the PTI popularity and having his own solid vote bank in the constituency, Ghulam Sarwar camp this time is confident to beat Chaudhry Nisar.
Nisar’s supporters, on the other hand, argued that he had done so much for the constituency over the years they didn’t see any real threat coming from Ghulam Sarwar.
“We have only done politics for the welfare of our people regardless of who is sitting at the top,” Saddique Khan, the younger brother of Ghulam Sarwar and a candidate for PP-7, responded when confronted with his brother’s constantly switching political parties.
A confident looking, Mr Saddique, who is said to be the real brain behind his elder brother’s politics and business, explained that his family joined the PML-Q government in 2002, knowing that by sitting in the opposition they would neither be doing any good for their people nor for themselves.
He was right. After sitting on the treasury benches, Ghulam Sarwar’s family rose in the city both politically and in the business. Mr Siddique was twice elected as the tehsil nazim of Taxila. Although Ghulam Sarwar lost the 2008 elections to Choudhry Nisar, his third brother Shafique Khan won from PP-7. And according to a local shopkeeper Mohammad Nazir, Khan brothers since 2002 had made huge fortune. “Besides having filling stations, they are major stakeholders in the stone crushing business in tehsil Texila,” added Mr Nazir.
If Khan brothers are confident of winning the elections because of their closeness to the local population, Chaudhry Nisar’s diehard supporters, who had represented their highly incommunicado leader in the constituency over the years, were gearing up for another win against their archrival.
At a PML-N election office, Chaudhry Mehboob, who looks after party’s development work in the Wah Cantt area, said local population knew Chaudhry Nisar to the core, hence, didn’t require him canvassing as other candidates were busy doing in the area.
Haji Umar Farooq, who is the PML-N candidate from PP-7, claimed that the only time Chaudhry Nisar lost the elections in 2002 from this constituency was because of the hidden hands of the establishment. “In 2008 general elections, the PML-N won NA-53 with 20,000 vote lead, and this time we are hopping for a 30,000 vote lead,” said Mr Farooq, who is managing the election campaign of Chaudhry Nisar in the Taxila city.
On the emergence of the PTI as a major political force in the country and posing a serious challenge to the PML-N, Mr Farooq, a wealthy property developer in the area, said it was because of the vacuum created by sheer failure of the PPP. “Yes, at the moment the PTI is a second major political force riding high on the popularity of Mr Khan, but it carries no threat to his PML-N,” added Mr Farooq.
Right Wing Factor: Muttahida Deni Mahaz (MDM) candidate from PP-7, Mufti Basit, has announced his support for Ghulam Sarwar Khan.
Talking to Dawn, Mufti Basit said as per the MDM’s policy, he was allowed to take decision at the local level, saying, “I think, Sarwar Khan is the best candidate at the moment, hence I have decided to back him along with my supporters.” Mufti claimed he had a support of some 15,000 voters.
In the past elections, Jamaat-i-Islami had supported Chaudhry Nisar but this time the party has fielded its own candidate in the area.
Mohammad Afzal Janjua, former president of Taxila Bar Council, said, “The DMD support to Sarwar Khan and the JI candidate as the rightwing party has its 5000 to 10,000 vote bank in the constituency, which will definitely adversely affect Chaudhry Nisar.”
Another lawyer, Syed Iqrar, in his 30s, however, said at the moment both Khans were going neck and neck, let’s see who wins in the end.
Mr Farooq of the PML-N, however, claimed that DMD’s candidate move was a planned act to benefit Sarwar Khan, but “it will not make any difference in the end.”