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Local rivalries dominate

April 20, 2013

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The politics of Jhelum district is beset with local rivalries. The PPP once had a vote bank here but in recent times the PML-N has come to dominate the region. Jhelum city is the district headquarters with six union councils and a population of around 150,000. A good number of people from Jhelum district are settled abroad, especially in the United Kingdom. The Gujjars, Jutts and Rajputs are the dominant clans.

Jhelum was considered a PML-N fortress when the Rajas under Raja Afzal represented the party here. They have traditionally been opposed by the Altaf family of the former Punjab governor, Chaudhry Altaf Husain. Faced with a revolt in the party, the Rajas recently announced joining the PPP.

Now, an alliance between former MNA Nawabzada Iqbal Mehdi and former MPA Khadim Gurmala of the PML-N has come into existence in opposition to the Rajas, the Altaf family’s Farrukh Altaf, a former district nazim of Jhelum, and Chaudhry Shahbaz Husain, a former federal minister of the PML-Q. The PPP has decided to field Raja Mohammed Afzal on both National Assembly seats.

NA-62 comprises Sohawa and Dina tehsils. The constituency was redesigned before the 2002 general elections and came to include most parts of the former NA-45 from where Raja Afzal had won for four times.

Chaudhry Altaf Husain won once, in 1990, as a PPP man; in 2002 his brother, Chaudhry Shahbaz Husain, secured the seat on a PML-Q ticket. Raja Muhammad Safdar Khan, son of Raja Afzal, regained it for the PML-N in 2008.

Failed attempts were made for seat adjustments between the PML-Q and the PPP and now, both Raja Afzal of the PPP and the PML-Q’s Farrukh Altaf are in the race. So is the PML-N choice, Khadim Gurmala, a four-time MPA. Chaudhry Sohail Zafar, the president of the PPP’s Jhelum chapter, who contested the last two elections as a party nominee in NA-62, applied this time for NA-63. However, he decided to quit the race following the party’s decision to field Raja Afzal on both NA seats.

NA-63 comprises the Jhelum and Pind Dadan Khan tehsils. The constituency is considered a PML-N stronghold as its man, Nawabzada Iqbal Mehdi, won this seat four times (1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997). He could not contest the 2002 general elections due to the graduation-degree requirement but actively supported his party’s Raja Asad, who bagged the seat in both 2002 and 2008.

The PML-N has nominated Mehdi in NA-63 whereas the PML-Q has put its bet on Chaudhry Fawad Husain, who settled for the Q tag after the PPP decided to back Raja Afzal.

PP-24 (Sohawa): In the last two elections, the seat was won by Chaudhry Suqlain who joined the PML-Q after returning as an independent in 2002. In 2008, he won as an independent supported by the PML-N, which he later joined. He is also a contender for NA-62 while his brother, former Sohawa tehsil nazim Taj Mohammed, is vying for a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf nomination in PP-24. Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf is contesting as a PML-Q nominee whereas Raja Owais Khalid, son of a former MPA Raja Khalid, is the PML-N nominee. Raja Tariq Kiyani carries the PPP ticket.

PP-25 (Dina): This seat went to Mehr Fayaz of the PML-N in 2008 and to Tasneem Nasir of the PML-Q in 2002. Fayaz is again in the race as a PML-N candidate while ex-MPA Nasir is the PPP candidate. The PML-Q has not fielded a candidate.

PP-26 (Jhelum): Candidates backed by the PML have been winning here since 1985. Nadeem Khadim Gurmala of the PML-N was elected MPA in 2008 but was disqualified for holding dual nationality in 2012. In the by-election his father, Khadim Gurmala, defeated Raja Afzal. The PML-N has fielded Chaudhry Laal Hussain, the brother of Khadim Gurmala, here while Chaudhry Arif of the PML-Q and the PPP’s Chaudhry Aurangzaib are also in the fray.

PP-27 (Pind Dadan Khan): Chaudhry Nazar Husain Gondal of the PML-Q won in 2002 and Syed Shams Haider of the PML-N was successful in 2008. Now, Gondal is vying for the seat as the PML-N man whereas former tehsil nazim Abid Jutana is the PML-Q nominee. The PPP’s Dr Riaz is also in the run.