RAWALPINDI, May 5: Traditional rivals are facing each other in Rawalpindi’s rural-cum-urban area seat of the National Assembly (NA-52).
This time, the contest is going to be interesting and tough because of the entry of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and the seat adjustment between the PPP and the PML-Q against Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N.
The constituency comprises Chakala Scheme-III, Bahria Town, Gulraiz Housing Scheme, Shah Khalid Colony, Askari Housing schemes, housing schemes around Benazir Bhutto International Airport and rural areas of Saghri, Basali, Adwal etc.
Besides Chaudhry Nisar and Raja Mohammad Basharat, the joint candidate of the PML-Q and the PPP, there are 15 aspirants in the constituency. They included Lt-Col (retired) Ajmal Sabir Raja of the PTI, Maulana Abdul Ghaffar of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI)’s Khalid Mehmood Mirza and Malik Tariq Mehmood of the MQM.
In 2008, the number of total registered voters in the constituency was 375,933. For the 2013 elections, there has been an increase of 79,254 voters.
The contest will be tough as Chaudhry Nisar, the former opposition leader in the National Assembly, is struggling to retain the seat for the third time.
He won the seat in 2002 with 73,671 votes after defeating Raja Basharat’s brother Raja Nasir who managed to get 56,645 votes while Saghir Khokar of the PPP bagged 11,684 votes.
In 2008, Chaudhry Nisar again won the seat by 97,747 votes. Raja Nasir of PML-Q got 54,988 votes and PPP candidate and former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s son Raja Khurram Pervaiz bagged 38,052 votes.
After the 2008 elections, Chaudhry Nisar vacated the seat as he had also won from NA-53 (Taxila). The PML-N fielded Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar in the by-election who won the seat with 54,917 votes while his rival Raja Nasir remained second with 22,773 votes.
This year, however, Chaudhry Nisar is facing tough time from Raja Basharat who served in Pervaiz Elahi led Punjab government as a senior minister in 2002-2007.
Both Raja Basharat and Chaudhry Nisar have been archrivals sine they joined politics from the district council in late 1970s.
After joining the PML-N, they also opposed each other. Chaudhry Nisar was not in favour of Raja Nasir in the elections for the district council chairmanship in 1997. After the military coup in 1999, Raja Basharat joined the PML-Q.
Though the PTI candidate is a new entrant, the urban areas are witnessing support for Imran Khan, especially in sectors like Chaklala Scheme-III and army housing schemes like Askari-I to 10.
There is a little friction in the PML-N as former vice-president of Rawalpindi Cantonment Board and PML-N leader Chaudhry Tanveer is not happy over the party’s decision not to award provincial assembly ticket to his nephew Sarfraz Afzal as Chaudhry Nisar is also contesting elections from the constituency as an independent candidate with the symbol of cow.
On the other hand, Chaudhry Nisar managed to get the support of former PPP minister Raja Shahid Zafar who won the National Assembly seat in 1985 and 1988 against Raja Basharat.
“The position of the PML-N is better in this constituency as the party performed better during the last five years. The presence of Chaudhry Nisar will bring better results for the PML-N,” said Raja Shahid Zafar while talking to Dawn.
He was of the view that the entry of PTI would not have an impact in this area because most of the people supported the PML-N.
On the other hand, PTI vice-president and former district nazim Raja Tariq Kiani said the young generation would vote for Imran Khan.
“We have fielded new candidates as we want to bring a change in the country,” he said, adding 37 per cent PTI candidates across the country were new.
Raja Basharat’s cousin and former Potohar Town nazim Hamid Nawaz Raja was confident that Raja Basharat would win with the support of the PPP. “PML-N failed to accommodate most of its old workers and supporters and they have joined Raja Sahib.”
He said the PTI would also divide the votes of the PML-N as it was not established on ideological grounds and always got votes of the rightwing and educated people. “The PTI will not affect the PML-Q and PPP vote bank in this constituency,” he said.