The war drums are beating in Gujrat as the heavyweights square off for another election. Once again party lines are being crossed and local alliances made and broken every day.
The district offers a variety of prominent figures of Pakistani politics that must inevitably and unabashedly slip into their cut-throat local roles. While Gujrat has always been intriguing enough, new elements add to the suspense. The alliance between the PPP and the PML-Q has not been quite able to stand the Gujrat test. Partners elsewhere, the two old rivals are going to clash here again. The PML-N lurks around with influence of its own, especially on Punjab Assembly seats where it has some powerful candidates, and the PTI signifies the promise of at least some change in the voting pattern if not in the tally of seats — at least in Gujrat putting its faith in candidates outside the category of ‘electables’.
Not to be forgotten are the unusually diligent election officials who have already made a mark by rejecting the nomination of Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gul, emblem of the PPP’s resistance in the district. The Nawabzadas, traditional PPP allies, have been taking on the Shujaat group in NA-104, as if by habit. Even when some members of the Nawabzada family defected to the Nawaz League recently, Ghazanfar Gul has stayed loyal to his old party. Some members of the Chaudhry family are now part of the PTI but they have been unable to get a PTI ticket.
Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain is again a PML-Q nominee here whereas his possible opponent Ghazanfar Gul has gone to the tribunal to fight the rejection of his papers. Gull’s elder brother former MNA Nawabzada Mazhar Ali Khan could be the PML-N nominee here.
NA-105 (Gujrat city-Kunjah) is the crunch seat in Gujrat. Shujaat Hussain returned from here five times. Ahmed Mukhtar is his old rival, who has won this seat twice since 1990. This time Chaudhry Pervez Elahi is contesting this seat, disregarding the seat-adjustment formula with the PPP. He is trying to bill this as a contest against a joint front, in a pointed reference to the recent joining of the PML-N by Ahmed Saeed, Ahmed Mukhtar’s brother. It was being expected that if the PPP stopped Mukhtar from contesting against Pervez, the Mukhtar family and its allies will put their weight behind Saeed. The last time also, the PML-N backed Mukhtar to defeat Shujaat. The PTI also appears to have some following in this urban constituency as has the JI.
NA 106 (Lalamusa-Dinga) is mainly a rural seat where the Gujjars dominate the politics. The Kairas have won this four times whereas the late Syed Manzoor Hussain Shah of the PML won this seat thrice. This time the PML-N has decided to field Jaafar Iqbal Fatta Bhand against Qamar Zaman Kaira instead of Syed Noorul Hassan Shah of Kulewal group, the traditional rivals of the Kairas. The PTI has denied ticket to Mian Afzal Hayat, an old player who was the caretaker chief minister of Punjab before the 1997 polls. The JI also has good presence in NA-106. It has nominated Irfan Ahmed Safi, a former UC nazim from Lalamusa, for NA-106. In the 2002 general elections, Rehman Naseer Marala of the PPP won the newly established constituency and later on joined the PML-Q whereas in 2008, the PML-N’s Jamil Malik won the seat.
Following Jamil’s disqualification over dual nationality his uncle Hanif Awan won the by-election. The PML-N has a tough call to come up with an answer to Chaudhry Rehman Naseer, these days with the PML-Q as N’s potential candidate Abid Raza Kotla was disqualified during the scrutiny. Naseer enjoys support of the Kairas.
The contests in all these NA constituencies influence as much as they are influenced by fights on the equally fierce battles for Punjab Assembly seats. Most of these PA seats have swung between parties, like the PP-108 (Karianwala-Tanda). The Nawazbzadas have won it thrice since 1985 and four times it has gone to the Chaudhry group.
The PP-109 has gone to the Shujaat group five times and twice to the Nawabzada group since 1985. The PML-N is likely to field Mooin Nawaz Warraich, a defector from the PPP, here this time. The PML-Q has put Chaudhry Shafaat Hussain, a former Gujrat district Nazim, instead of Abdullah Yousaf Warraich, the winner in the last two elections.
PP-110 (Kunjah) is a Shujaat group stronghold. Pervez Elahi won this seat six times and in 2008 his son Moonis Elahi returned from here. Moonis will again be the man to beat.
PP-112 (Lalamusa) went to Tanvir Ashraf Kaira in 2008 in a close finish. Tanveer Kaira will be challenged by Ashraf Deona of the PML-N.
PP-113 (Dinga) has a large Gujjar presence. Mian Tariq Mehmood of the PML has so far won this seat four times. In 2002, his daughter Maria Tariq secured it for the PML-Q. Mian Tariq has since switched sides and is now in the fray as a PML-N nominee.