Having defeated Sheikh Rashid Ahmad from his hometown constituency, NA-56 Rawalpindi in the 2008 general election, Hanif Abbasi has vowed to repeat the performance as he sets sight on defeating Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan with a heavy margin in the upcoming polls.
Born in 1966, the firebrand leader joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after parting ways with his parent party, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) which had boycotted the 2008 elections.
Abbasi had registered an upset victory against Sheikh Rashid Shafiq — a nephew of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed — from NA-56 in a by-election under the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) banner. The seat was vacated after Ahmed won two National Assembly seats from Rawalpindi in the 2002 polls.
The NA-56, comprising largely middle-class areas, has its importance in national politics due to its proximity to Islamabad and to historical events attached to it, such as the assassination of former prime minister and PPP chief Benazir Bhutto.
Supporters of Abbasi, having a reputation of being unruly at times, have been involved in squabbles with the journalist fraternity in the past.
The PML-N leader had to spend some time in political wilderness as he lacked support from his party and colleagues in Rawalpindi for his alleged involvement in the notorious ephedrine case.
He was grilled for allegedly misusing 500 kilograms of ephedrine — a controlled chemical — before the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench granted him bail upon submitting documents issued by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) declaring him not guilty. Later, the brigadier who held the head of ANF’s Karachi regional directorate responsible for rescuing Abbasi, also the CEO of Gray’s Pharma, was transferred from the Rawalpindi directorate to Mangla Cantonment.
Despite his political credence, the PML-N leader is set to face an uphill task in the coming general election due to the seat adjustment deal between PTI and Sheikh Rashid in Rawalpindi. The deal pledges PTI’s support to Sheikh Rashid in NA-55 and Rashid in return would facilitate the cricket legend-turned politician in NA-56 against Abbasi.
— Research and text by Imran Kazmi