RAWALPINDI, June 4: After vacation of the provincial assembly seat (PP-6) by PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, political parties, especially the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), have started gearing up for the by-elections in the constituency comprising Rawalpindi’s cantonment and adjoining rural areas.
Chaudhry Nisar, who won a national and provincial assembly seat, took oath of NA-52. He had won the provincial assembly seat as an independent candidate and bagged 51,826 votes.
Wasiq Qayyum Abbasi of the PTI stood the runner-up with 49,398 votes while PPP’s Bilal Azfal Khokhar secured 14,590 votes.
Due to differences between the two main groups of the PML-N, the party did not issue ticket to anyone of them for the May 11 elections.
PML-N’s Sarfraz Afzal, who was the MPA from the area in 2008-2013, had also submitted his nomination papers but later he retired from the fray on the pressure of the party leaders.
However, the differences within the party affected the votes as the PML-N stalwart could retain the seat after a tough competition.
He was contesting elections from four seats - NA-53 and PP-7 (Taxila) and NA-52 and PP-6 (Rawalpindi). However, he lost his hometown constituencies NA-53 and PP-7 to his traditional rivals and PTI’s Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Shafique Khan.
A PML-N leader requesting not to be named told Dawn that Chaudhry Nisar had contested the elections from the provincial assembly seat as he wanted to play a major role in the province.
“Punjab chief ministership was the dream of Chaudhry Nisar but the Sharif brothers never wanted to lose the province from their family control,” he said.
After taking oath of National Assembly by Chaudhry Nisar, the provincial assembly seat became vacant and the political parties started warming up for the by-elections expected to be held in July.
The PTI will field its candidate Wasiq Qayyum Abbasi who secured 2,428 less votes than that of Chaudhry Nisar.
“We are confident that the PTI will clinch the seat in the by-elections,” said Raja Tariq Mehboob Kiani, the PTI vice-president, while talking to Dawn.
He said Wasiq Abbasi had also submitted an application to the election tribunal for recounting of votes.
“The by-elections will be a test case for the PML-N government in the centre and Punjab and if they tried to influence the results, the PTI will come up with different strategies,” he said.
For Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the by-polls in Rawalpindi will also be a test case for the incoming local government elections.
“We will field our candidates in the by-polls especially in PP-6 and will not leave the field open for others. As per traditions, the former candidate Bilal Afzal Khokhar will repeat the elections,” said Amir Fida Paracha, the PPP Rawalpindi president.
“The by-polls will be a warm-up exercise for PPP for the preparation of the incoming local government elections. The PPP had learned a lot from the recent experience and come to the field in its traditional way,” he said.
On the other hand, the ruling PML-N is undecided about the candidate for the seat. There are a number of candidates interested in the by-polls. Former MPA Sarfarz Afzal said he was ready to contest the by-elections if the party allowed him.
“I retired from the May 11 elections in favour of Chaudhry Nisar as he was my senior,” he told Dawn.