ISLAMABAD, June 1: On a hot and still day, Islamabads Constitution Avenue was packed with flashy, expensive cars as the victors of May 11 headed for the Parliament House to stake their claim for the next five years.
As the members of the 14th National Assembly met on this ‘historic’ day of the ‘first civilian transfer’, they included many who had debated and fought on the floor of the National Assembly earlier and those who had entered the chambers for the first time. Clad in their best outfits, excited and hopeful, the old timers greeted each other with hearty hugs followed by intimate chats as newcomers entered quietly and tentatively tried to make their way around, looking for their seats and greeting the few that they knew.
Indeed, PMLN chief and prime minister-in-waiting Nawaz Sharif, was not the only one who had returned to the House after having missed two terms.
There were others too who had returned now after the degree requirement had been done away with. And then there were the debutantes, some of whom have been profiled below.
It is encouraging that all mainstream political parties have fielded new faces in this election.
In this regard the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) has done rather well as 21 of its 35 National Assembly seat holders are first-timers.
Mohsin Shah Nawaz Ranjha belongs to a politically well-entrenched family from district Sargodha. His father, Shahnawaz Ranjha, is a PML-N stalwart and had repeatedly won elections for the provincial assembly.
This is why the family faced the wrath of the Musharraf regime after the 1999 military coup.
As a result, the young Ranjha left the country and after having spent some time in Jeddah he landed up in London for his higher education.
While studying in London – where he passed his bar exam - Mr Nawaz Ranjha also volunteered at the international office of the PML-N where he was noticed by the party chief, Nawaz Sharif.
It was the latter who then encouraged the young lawyer’s entry into politics. Though Mr Ranjha contested the 2008 general elections also, he lost then. This time around however he won from NA 65, Sargodha.
Abdul Rahman Khan Kanju, winner of NA 155, Lodhran-II, is the son of the late Sadique Kanju, who served as the former minister of state for foreign affairs in Nawaz Sharif’s first government in 1990.
However, after the military coup, the father joined the dissidents who joined hands with General Pervez Musharraf though he was shot dead before the 2002 general elections.
At that time, young Kanju was studying abroad but he then abandoned his education and returned to the country. Before long, he replaced his father in politics.
Supported by the League that was aligned with the ruling regime, he was twice elected as the district nazim from Lodhran.
However, when the 2013 general elections came closer, Kanju along with a few other independent candidates from Lodhran contested the elections without any affiliation with any party.
He won the Lodhran seat he contested while a second seat from the district was won by another candidate from his group. Later all the winners joined the PML-N.
Raja Javed Akhlas is a senior politician and a known face in district Rawalpindi where he has served as the deputy district and district Nazim in the local government system introduced by General Pervez Musharraf.
However, the grey haired politician has entered Islamabad’s parliament house for the first time after having won a National Assembly seat.
A former Q Leaguer, his claim to fame is not just that he jumped ship after the 2008 election (which he contested and lost on a Q ticket from the same National Assembly seat) and won the PML-N ticket for 2013 but also that he beat the former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in Gujjar Khan.
Akhlas faced Ashraf and his “record breaking development” in his home constituency as well as some disgruntled N workers who felt that a former member of the Q-League should not have been given the ticket.
Yet, riding the crest of the PML-N wave in the Punjab, Akhlas trounced Ashraf by a large margin in NA-51, Rawalpindi.
PTI first timers
Aaisha Gulallai, who has entered the National Assembly on a reserved seat from the PTI quota from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, hails from the South Waziristan and is the only woman parliamentarian from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Breaking all the stereotypes that others may have of women from KP and from the FATA, this young newcomer has been educated abroad and has studied international relations, computer science and comparative religions. PTI, however, is not the first party the young legislator has been associated with.
Earlier, she had worked as the PPP coordinator in Fata and then also spent some time in the All Pakistan Muslim League of the former president General Pervez Musharraf. It was only after her stints with these two parties that she joined the latest political flavour – the PTI – in 2011.
A vocal critic of US drone strikes in Pakistan, she has done some work for charitable organizations that help the residents of the tribal areas.
She is also the elder sister of Maria Toor Pakay, a professional squash player who plays on the international circuit.
Sajid Nawaz, another new face of the PTI, has won the election from NA-3, Peshawar. An MBA graduate, who manages his family business and lands, the new legislator had contested previous elections for the provincial assembly as an independent candidate and remained unsuccessful.
He entered the electoral fray after the death of his father Haji Mohammad Nawaz.
The father had won provincial assembly elections on a PPP ticket.
After losing the 2008 election as in independent candidate, Mr Nawaz joined the PTI and rose through the ranks of the party.
Reportedly, Imran Khan awarded him the ticket despite strong opposition from the party KP chapter.
Although a known face on the political scene, Shafqat Mehmood, a former bureaucrat, is a first timer in the lower house of the parliament.
His claim to fame at the moment is the fact that he is the only PTI candidate to have snatched a seat from the jaws of the PML-N in its stronghold of Lahore.
In the past, Mr Mehmood had served as a PPP member of the Senate in the early 90s though he later quit the party. He served as a part of the cabinet of the late caretaker prime minister Malik Meraj Khalid, after then president Farooq Leghari sent the PPP government packing in 1996.
He served in the cabinet as the caretaker federal minister for environment, local government and food.
This was not his only brush with governments – he was also appointed as provincial minister for information and culture, in Punjab in 1999 under the then Chief Executive, General Parvez Musharraf.
Having spent some years since then in political oblivion he joined the PTI in 2011 and worked as its information secretary.
PPP’s new faces
Alizeh Iqbal Haider is daughter of late Syed Iqbal Haider, who had served as law minister with Benazir Bhutto during her second government from 1993 to 1996.
Ms Alizeh has been accommodated on reserve seats for women on the PPPP quota. She is a barrister, human rights activist and member of “The Forum for Secular Pakistan.”
Ms Haider’s nomination for the reserve seat by the PPP leadership was quite a surprise because late Syed Iqbal Haider was no more part of the PPP at time of his death on November 11, 2012.
A senior PPP leader says recognising the services of late Mr Haider, the party leadership decided to nominate Ms Alizeh on the reserve seat.
The PPP has returned another new face to the National Assembly, but, he too is scion of a known political family of Sindh. Mir Shabbir Ali Bijarani is son of former federal minister for education and inter-provincial coordination, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani.
This time, elder Bijarani has decided to work as provincial legislator in Sindh. He has been announced as member of the provincial cabinet.
The younger Bijarani has won election from NA 209, Jacobabad. The young Bijarani became district nazim, Jacobaad, in 2001, but, lost election for the same position in 2005.
A graduate in political science and economics, Mr Shabbir, has never before contested election for a provincial or National Assembly seat.
Mohammad Ayaz Soomro is an experienced politician from the hometown of Bhuttos, district Larkana. Former provincial law minister in Sindh, Mr Soomro, has twice won election for the provincial assembly both in 2002 and 2008.
However, this time, the PPPP decided to field him in NA 204, Larkana-I, which he convincingly won and returned to the National Assembly.
Although Mr Soomro is a known face within the PPP, this will be his first term in the National Assembly.
He is sitting party president of district Larkana. He started his political career as a student leader, and remained associated with the PPPP.
By profession a lawyer, he also remained president of district bar association, Larkana, for several times.
He was very close to late Benazir Bhutto.