SARGODHA: Electioneering for NA-69 (Khushab-I) by-election is at its peak after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz awarded ticket to Uzair Muhammad Khan, the son of disqualified MNA Sumera Malik.
Contesting as a PML-N nominee after ditching the PML-Q, Ms Malik had bagged the seat for third consecutive term in the 2013 election with record 118,108 votes, defeating the PTI’s Umer Aslam Awan, also for third time, who got 79,855 votes. She had earlier won the seat in 2002 and 2008 general elections.
After 2013 election, on Umer Aslam Awan’s petition, Ms Malik was disqualified by the Supreme Court and she, in an attempt to keep hold on the constituency, decided to field her son for the Jan 23 by-poll.
The award of ticket to her son by the PML-N made the party stalwarts and workers unhappy as there were many aspirants to contest for the seat after Sumera Malik’s disqualification.
MPA Malik Karam Elahi Bandial wanted to field his cousin Haroon Bandial while Amina Malik, in-charge of PML-N chief’s election from NA-68 Sargodha-V, had also started her own campaign from Khushab-I. Amina was forced to withdraw her nomination and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif reportedly convinced Karam Elahi Bandial against vying for his cousin.
The other big achievement by the PML-N leader was convincing Amir Mukhtar Singha for joining its folds.
The NA-69 seems to be a haven for turncoats. Sumera Malik won 2002 election on the ticket of the National Alliance, she was a PML-Q candidate in 2008 while she was in the PML-N fold in 2013 polls.
Umer Aslam Awan was with the PML-Q in 2002, he was an independent candidate in 2008, and joined the PTI for the 2013 vote.
After the disqualification of Sumera Malik, he reportedly approached the PML-N leadership for joining the party but did not get any positive response from it.
The constituency, particularly Soon Valley, is considered a stronghold of Awan clan and Umer Aslam Awan is exploiting the situation by raising the slogan of Awan versus Hoti clans.
He arranged convention of Awan tribe under the banner of Tanzeemul Awan at Naushera which appealed to the Awan Biradari to vote for the Awan candidate.
All the candidates have their personal vote bank as the history shows that no-one, except the Awans ruled the constituency while Tiwana and Baloch clans also showed their worth in NA-70 Khushab-II.If Umer Aslam Awan succeeds to win sympathies of the Awan clan by terming Uzair Muhammad Khan an intruder, it will be difficult for Sumera Malik to retain the seat for the fourth time.
After the judgment of the Lahore High Court against the delimitations in Punjab, the voters in the constituency are focusing on the by-election of NA-69 Khushab-I and it is likely to be a close contest.