ATTOCK, March 25: The PML-Q, which once could get Attock to elect Shaukat Aziz in a by-election, now appears to be short of obvious candidates in the district for the coming elections.
While other parties and candidates have been picking up nomination forms in the district since the process began on March 24, no probable Q-League candidate has come forward yet.
This ‘shortage’ is primarily due to the defection of the former district nazim Major (retired) Tahir Sadik Khan. A brother-in-law of PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Khan is apparently so unhappy with the Q-League’s alliance with the PPP that he has dumped his party and opted for a solo flight He announced forming the “Major” group some two months ago and added that he and his candidates would contest all eight seats – three national and five provincial ones - of the district.
In fact, Khan had made his differences known as early as February last year when it fielded a candidate, Malik Amanut Khan, against the joint PPP-PML-Q candidate Malik Sameen in the by-election for PP-18 Attock-IV.
This election was held because PPP’s MPA Malik Khurram resigned when he left the PPP for PTI.
The split caused in the vote allowed PML-N to win the seat while Khan’s Malik Amanut Khan was runner up with 40,258 votes. PPP’s Sameen came third.
The PML-Q tried hard to lure back Khan but to no avail. Khan is so unhappy with the PPP-PML-Q alliance that he is unwilling to join hands again with the Chaudhries to whom he is also related. He has been known to tell people that the alliance with the PPP is unacceptable to the local workers and activists.
He told Dawn last month that if he went back to the Q-League, his supporters would not forgive him.
“I have decided to contest the 2013 election on my own,” he said then.
When asked if it would be difficult for him to win the election against the PML-N and the PPP (who won in 2008 from the area) he claimed that his group was much stronger politically and popular with the people.
There is no doubt that he dominated the area till the 2008 elections.
In the 2002 general elections, he ensured that the PML-Q won all three National Assembly seats -- NA-57, NA-58 and NA-59 – as well as four Provincial Assembly seats --PP-16, PP-17, PP-18 and PP-19 - out of five.
The one exception was PP-15 which was bagged by Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Syed Ejaz Bukhari, who too later joined PML-Q. (Mr Bukhari is now in PTI.)
Later, the strong party organisation in Attock ensured that Shaukat Aziz was able to win a by-election from the district and become the prime minister.
However, the party’s position began to deteriorate from 2007 onwards.
The 2002 winner of NA 57, Malik Amin Aslam, as well as the two victors of the provincial seats of PP-15 and PP-19, Col (retired) Shujah Khanzada and Pir Abbass Mohiuddin left the party before the 2008 elections because of disagreements over party tickets.
However, the party continued to view the district as its stronghold; the then chief minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi who was dreaming of capturing the prime minister’s slot, contested a National Assembly seat from this district in 2008.
But the party lost badly in the district in 2008.
It lost both the National Assembly seats of NA- 57 and NA- 59 where the Q candidates were Eman Waseem (Khan’s daughter) and her husband Waseem Gulzar. The seats were won by Sheikh Aftab Ahmed of PML-N and Sardar Saleem Hydar of PPP respectively. Only NA- 58 was bagged by Mr Elahi.
Similarly, three of the five provincial seats were won by Malik Shahan Khan and Khuram Ali khan of PPP and an independent candidate.
The two Q-League members - Malik Aitabar and Chaudhry Sher Ali – who won the two provincial seats of PP- 19 and PP-17--defected to the PML-N in 2010.
But what makes the situation more critical for the PML-Q is that this time around Khan will not be on their side.
But can Khan sweep the district without a big party behind him?
Khan feels that he does not need a mainstream party to succeed electorally because he has enough support, which he cultivated during his nine years as Nazim from 2001 to 2009.
It is noteworthy that despite his unhappiness with the PML-Q-PPP alliance, he was not averse to accepting development money that came to the district thanks to the goodwill of deputy prime minister Elahi. And he is counting on reaping the benefit of these development works in the coming elections in the shape of votes.
Khan is now gearing up to contest NA-57 and NA-58 seat while it is rumoured that his offspring will stand from NA-59. All of them have already acquired the nomination papers.
However, it may not be very easy for him to defeat all the other parties. After all, his family lost against the PPP and the PML-N in the 2008 election also and this time around too, these parties as well as the PTI have selected Khan’s old allies for the coming contest.
His solo flight may not turn out to be a very smooth one.