The general elections 2013 have thrown up many surprises. Once a stronghold of the PPP, southern Punjab has gone to the PML-N. The region has also witnessed a new voting pattern.
In the past, traditional and landed families used to dominate politics in the area but this time they have lost the electoral battle on their own turf. And the phenomenon can be noticed throughout the southern belt of Punjab.
Take Multan for instance. Although Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Javed Hashmi of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) have, to some extent, salvaged the prestige of the Makhdoom-disciple specific vote bank, which had been a hallmark of polling in the city of saints, the defeat of all three Gilanis - two sons and a brother of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani - has given a new look to the political landscape of Multan.
Javed Ali Shah of the PML-N has won NA-152, Multan-V, against Mujtaba Gilani, the younger brother of the former premier, and Malik Abdul Ghaffar Dogar inflicted a crushing defeat on Ali Musa Gilani and Shah Mehmood Qureshi in NA-148 Multan-1. Then there is Sikandar Hayat Bosan, the winner from NA-151, against Abdul Qadir Gilani.
“All these winning candidates had been there in the politics of Multan for quite some time, but complete routing of the Gilanis at their hands is, of course, a new phenomenon which I believe will kick start a new phase of politicking in the city,” said Uzair Ahmad, who works for a government organisation based in Multan.
Agreeing to the fact that PPP’s overall poor image contributed to their defeat, Mr Ahmad said it was not only Multan where the voters rejected the old families, but similar trend was also visible in the rest of southern Punjab.
In the district of Sahiwal, the Kathias, a known traditional land-owning family, have always dominated the political scene.
Ghulam Farid Kathia, the winner in the 2008 general elections and former education minister, lost to Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf in NA-161 Sahiwal-II. Mr Ashraf is a relatively newcomer in politics as compared to the Kathia family. Mr Ashraf, a lawyer by profession, belongs to the Arain family that has a sizeable vote bank in area.
“Of course, it’s the poor reputation of the PPP which led to Mr Kathia’s defeat, but the victory of Mr Ashraf is an important development. He is not a landlord and neither has inherited politics from his elders,” opined Mr Ishaq Baryar, a local resident, who owns a chartered accountancy firm.
A similar contest was played out in the neighboring NA-163 Sahiwal III, where Nauman Ahmad Langrial of the PML-Q and a former minister, was defeated by Chaudhry Mohammad Munir Azhar of the PML-N. The Langrials own land whereas Chaudhry Munir has made fortune from business.
The changing voting pattern from older families to the new entrants to politics was further visible in the district of Vehari. Sajid Mehdi, literally an outsider in NA-168 Vehari II, trounced both PTI’s Ishaq Khakwani, who was the winner in 2002 on the PML-Q ticket, and Natasha Daultana of the PPP, who had won the seat in a by-election in 2012 after the death of her brother Azeem Daultana. Mr Mehdi had served as the naib district nazim of Vehari but by all means he had no comparison to Khakwanis and Daultanas, traditionally two strong families of the area.
Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, an independent, has sprung up an even bigger surprise in NA-169 Vehari-III by defeating both Tehmina Daultana of the PML-N and Aftab Ahmad Khan Khichi, the winners of 2008 and 2002 general elections, respectively. Mr Chaudhry had only joined politics some seven or eight years back unlike Daultanas and Khichis who had been there for decades. The main reason for his success was that, Mr Chaudhry managed to organise the local Arain biradri, who seemed to have voted for him en bloc.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Baig, a local journalist, said in the past the Arain clan used to vote for Daulatanas. However, this time they decided to have their own representative in the National Assembly which resulted in the defeat of both Ms Daultana and Mr Khichi.
In NA-177 and NA-178, two of the district Muzaffargarh’s five National Assembly constituencies, Jamshed Dasti’s phenomenon may be a rare occurrence as he comes from the lower middle class. However, the virtual fall from grace of the land-owing Khar family and Syeds in the two constituencies further strengthened the voters’ disenchantment with landlords in the southern districts of Punjab.
In Bahawalpur, after consecutively winning elections in 2002 and 2008 in NA-184 Bahwalpur-II, the Warans have lost to Mian Najibuddin Awaisi of the PML-N. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of land holding and family influence between the Warans and Awaisis, the former being a powerful local family.
Sammiuallah Ahmad, a local resident, referred to NA-185, where Mohammad Baligur Rehman of the PML-N defeated Mohammad Azam Farooq Malik of the Bahawalpur National Awami Party of Nawabs, and said traditional politics was losing its charm in the region.
“Gone were the days when these Nawabs and Warans will only appear on the scene during the election time, and get votes,” said Mr Malik, adding Mr Baligur Rehman was a local businessman and remained available to his constituents round the clock.