The twin cities will be joining the country in going to the polls on May 11. But how does the future look for areas that surround the places where we live? Dawn Metro’s Yaqoob Malik reports from neighbouring district of Attock, and gives us an introduction to the everyday politics of our neighbours.
Attock is no ordinary district. With its 1.5 million residents, prime ministers and political leaders have been elected from this impoverished Punjabi district–including Shaukat Aziz in 2004, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid's (PML-Q) Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi Come May 11, 84 candidates will be contesting the elections–almost double the number that contested in 2008. Their aim: To get the chance to represent the people of Attock in the national and provincial assemblies. Twenty-four of the candidates will be contesting for the national assembly seats, and the final 60 in five Provincial Assembly seats. For the first time in a long time, it does not look like a prime minister hopeful will be contesting.
The King’s District… No more? In more ways than one, this district has been known as the district of the King’s Party. Its treatment of political opponents seems to play in to this reputation of being a district of the establishment. It has jailed the likes of former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif and the current president, Asif Ali Zardari.
In the last two elections, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) won big. In 2008, many observers expected the district to send a prime minister to Islamabad from Attock, in the shape of Elahi. Elahi’s upper hand has come from the support he enjoyed under General Pervez Musharraf's military rule—a reality that won him a great deal of support from the establishment.
Though the district still has a huge PML-Q presence, the last elections saw something that could be interpreted as a shift. It lost two seats (NA-57 and NA-59) to the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) respectively. Mr Elahi was the only one who retained his seat (NA-58), but his prime minister dreams remained unsuccessful–though he bagged a deputy prime minister post in the last PPP/PML-Q coalition government.
This time around, it looks like the PML-Q might lose this district. They have been unable to launch a single candidate from Attock in the May elections. Their bad luck has caused many to defect, including the district nazim Major (Retired) Tahir Sadik, the brother-in-law of PML-Q's Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. Tahir was against the alliance with the PPP, and formed his own independent “Major Group”.
The traditional baradari clans were also important, especially in the rural areas. Three major political parties–the PML-N, PPP, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and the independent Major Group are now the main rivals in this election.
When it comes to these elections, political analysts say there is talk of a mixed trend, where no single party is in a position to sweep all seats. When it comes to Attock, the PTI, PML-N and the Major Group will fight in NA-57 and in NA-58, and a one-to-one contest between the PPP and Major group will dominate the election in NA- 59.
Attock’s National Assembly seats
NA- 57 ATTOCK-I: In 2008, eight candidates contested the seat which, finally, was won by Sh Aftab Ahmed of PML-N in a tight race with 38,610 votes against the independent candidate Mr Amin Aslam's 38,311 votes (the difference was exactly 299 votes). Aslam had won the elections in 2002, though in 2008, the turnout remained just under 50%.
For 2013, 11 candidates are in the running, and a tough contest is expected among three main heavyweights: The ex-state minister Malik Amin Aslam of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), ex Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Mr Aftab of PML-N, and ex district nazim Major (Retired) Tahir Sadik of the Major Group. Mr. Tahir is contesting the elections for the first time–his daughter contested them in 2008 when he was district nazim. Interestingly, the PPP gave their ticket to the Pakistan Aman Party’s chief Haji Mohammad Gulzar because they did not have any viable potential candidate this time around. The rest of the parties–the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are not expected to perform very well.
NA-58 ATTOCK-II: Five candidates fought for this seat in the 2008 election–and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of the PML-Q won with more than a 20,000 vote margin over the PML-N candidate Malik Suhail. Voter turnout was also higher, with 57 per cent.
2013 will see the same five candidates vying for this seat. Suhail, who was a candidate of the PML-N last year, has now switched to the PTI, meaning that he might be standing far stronger this time. Ex-Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) Malik Itabar Khan will be running on the PML-N ticket as he contests a National Assembly seat for the first time. Itabar won PP-19 (Attock-V) from a PML-Q ticket, but later switched to PML-N.The native of this constituency is, actually, his father Malik Allahyar Khan (late), who won the seat in the 2002 election from the PML-Q, but could not contest in 2008. Ex-district nazim Mr Tahir will also be contesting from this constituency–and might prove to upset the PTI and the PML-N's efforts. There is no PPP candidate this time around. Though religious parties hope to do well, very little indicates that they will experience a good showing.
NA-59 Attock-III: Four candidates contested the seat in 2008, and it was won by Sardar Saleem Hydar of the PPP with a margin of more than 20,000 votes over the PML-Q's Chaudhry Waseem Gulzar (who happens to be the son-in-law of Mr Tahir). Like the last constituency, this voter turnout was high as well (60%).
In 2013, eight candidates are contesting and Mr Saleem Hydar will be defending his seat. Zain Elahi, the only son of Mr Tahir and the nephew of PML-Q chief Mr. Shujaat (both belong to the same Khattar Baradri), has entered the Major group.
The PTI’s aspirant is ex-MPA Mohammad Ali while the PML-N’s candidate, ex-MPA Asif Ali Malik, is the brother-in-law of PML-N leader Ch Nisar. PTI's future in this constituency depends on whether they give their ticket to the senior politician Sardar Sikandar Hayat, who joined the PTI after resigning from the PPP two months ago.
Provincial assembly seats
PP-15 ATTOCK-I: In 2008, three candidates were in the run. PPP candidate Malik Shahan won the seat with a 6,000 vote margin against PML-Q's Syed Ejaz Bukhari. Turnout remained at 51 per cent.
For 2013, 19 candidates are in the run. However, tough contests will be held between Mr. Shahan of the PPP, and Mr. Suleman of the PML-N, as well as PTI’s aspirant ex-MPA Bukhari, who had left the PML-Q soon after his defeat in 2008’s election. Whereas he won it in 2002’s elections from MMA and later joined hands with PML-Q.
PP-16 ATTOCK-II: In 2008, a total of seven aspirants contested for the seat. An independent aspirant, former provincial minister of Punjab, Col (Retired) Shujah Khanzada, won the seat with a margin of more than 10,000 votes over PPP's Dr Naeem Awan.
In 2013, eleven aspirants are in the running. Mr Khanzada is now a PML-N aspirant and will defend his seat for a third time after winning in 2002, when he defeated the PML-Q. However, he will face a tough time from the PTI’s aspirant Qazi Ahmed Akbar, a young newcomer, as well as Dr Naeem Awan of the PPP and Raza Khan of the Major group.
PP-17 ATTOCK-III: In 2008, five candidates contested, and Chaudhry Sher Ali Khan of the PML-Q won the seat after a very close contest with Haji Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan of the PPP.In 2013, eleven contestants will be taking part. The main contenders are Shawaiz Khan of the PML-N, Akbar Khan Tanoli of the PTI, and Malik Jamshid Altaf of Major Group. The 2008 winner, Chaudhry Sher Ali, is now contesting PP-18’s seat from the PML-N as he joined it after winning a seat from the PML-Q.
PPP-18 ATTOCK-IV: Three aspirants took part in 2008. After a tough fight, Malik Khurram Ali of the PPP defeated the PML-Q’s ex-provincial minister Col (Retired) Malik Anwar with 8,000 votes, who had won the seat in 2002. Last time, the voter turnout was as high as 62 per cent.
2013 will see nine aspirants, but the main contestants are ex-MPA Chaudhry Sher Ali of the PML-N, Mr Anwar of the PTI and Malik Amanut of the Major group.
Mr Khurram, the PPP's MPA, resigned in February and joined the PTI. The seat was won by the PML-N in a by-election. Surprisingly, the PTI gave the ticket to Col (retired) Malik Anwar, Mr Khurram’s uncle, who had joined the PTI after his defeat in the 2008 election from the PML-Q.
PP-19 ATTOCK-V: In 2008, six aspirants contested, and PML-Q’s Malik Aitabar Khan won the seat with a margin of around 6,000 votes. Voter turnout was 58 per cent.
In 2013, ten aspirants are in the running. It is a tough competition, as ex-MPA Pir Abbass Mohiuddin, a spiritual figure, is PTI’s candidate in this election. Mohiuddin won this seat in 2002’s election from the PML-Q. A former PTI aspirant, Sardar Mumtaz, is now contesting as an independent in protest, while another aspirant is Sardar Mansar Ameer of the Major Group.