RAWALPINDI: A stunning change was witnessed in the voting trend in the cantonment elections in Rawalpindi on Saturday as the ruling PML-N managed to get back its stronghold which it had almost lost to the PTI in the 2013 general elections.
The PTI had emerged as a very popular party in the cantonment areas of the garrison city in 2013. But after about two years, the voters’ mood changed as Imran Khan’s party could not get even a single seat in the 20 wards of the Rawalpindi and Chaklala cantonment boards.
The PTI faced defeat even in those areas where it had won four provincial assembly seats - PP-9 Asif Mehmood, PP-11 Rashid Hafeez, PP-12 Ijaz Khan Jazi and PP-13 Arif Abbasi. It had also won two seats of the National Assembly - NA-55 of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and NA-56 of Imran Khan.
The turnout on Saturday was, however, very low and only the PML-N supporters came out in favour of their candidates. In some areas, the PTI workers were seen on the roads but their number was small compared to the 2013 general elections.
By and large, the residents ignored the cantonment elections and remained busy in their routine chores. However, in the thickly-populated areas such as Tench Bhatta, Jhanda Chichi, Burf Khana Chowk, Misrial Road, Nasirabad and Chur Chowk, some election-related activities were witnessed.
Till the noon, the turnout in most of the polling stations was very low. However, by the afternoon the activity picked up momentum and remained brisk until the end of the polling hours.
“The turnout remained low,” Returning Officer Fahim Zafar Khan confirmed to Dawn without giving details.
“In the local government elections, it is the candidate who matters instead of the political party. People prefer to select those candidates who can resolve their civic issues,” said Mohammad Waris, a resident of Dheri Hassanabad.
PTI fails to win a seat even in areas where it won national, provincial assembly seats in 2013
Awais Manzoor, of Jhanda Chichi, added that the residents knew well who can resolve their issues. He said political affiliations did not matter in the local government elections. “We are facing water shortage and have issues in the approval of building plans, registration of deaths and births etc.”
Mohammad Waqas, a resident of Nasirabad, said the mood of voters had changed. He said before the polling day the PML-N and the PTI seemed neck to neck but on the polling day the trend was different. “The voters got an experience from the past and became mature with the passage of time,” he said.
Suhail Khan, a resident of Chaklala Scheme-III, attributed the change in the voting trend to the public awareness created by the media.
“The main cause of the defeat of the PTI was its division within and the poor selection of its candidates. During the last one year, the lawmakers of the PTI never visited their constituencies. Even Imran Khan, who was elected as the MNA from NA-56, never visited the garrison city after winning the seat,” a senior leader of the PTI told Dawn.
When contacted, PTI Punjab north general secretary Zahid Kazmi told Dawn that the grouping within the party and immaturity of the MPAs, who broke contacts with the local people, resulted in a setback for the party. He said the PML-N local leaders visited the residents and persuaded them to support the ruling party candidates. But the PTI local leaders did not keep in touch with the voters, he added.
PML-N former MNA Malik Shakil Awan told Dawn that his party won the cantonment elections by serving the citizens. He said the PTI damaged the economy through its dharnas.
The PML-N got more than 70,000 votes in those constituencies where the PTI had won in the 2013 general elections. “We once again proved that Rawalpindi is still the stronghold of the PML-N,” he said.
“Outsiders such as Imran Khan did not help the local residents and it is local leaders of PML-N who always come to the help of the people whether in treasury benches or in the opposition,” he said.
PPP City spokesman Shujaat Haider Naqvi said PTI’s victory in the 2013 elections was artificial and the local government elections had exposed the popularity of the PTI. He said though the PPP failed to get a seat, it ran the election campaign to boost the morale of its workers.
According to unofficial results, the PTI candidates won both seats in Taxila and six out of ten in Wah Cantonment.
PML- N candidates remained runners up while JI and independent candidates have failed to impress the result table.
There are two wards in Taxila which were won by Raza Shah and Ashiq Awan of PTI.
In Wah Cantonment, Mehmood Khan, Malik Missri Khan, Raja Mohammad Ayub and Haji Azizur Rehman belonging to Nawaz League retained their seats.
Imran Khan, Azhar Nawaz, Amjad Kashmiri, Fahad Masood Akbar, Malik Ihtisham Iqbal and Azhar Mehmood of PTI returned victorious on the rest of the seats.
In Murree, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Akmal Nawaz won the seat of Murree Cantonment Board Ward No 1.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf candidate Malik Khalil had already been elected unopposed from ward No 2.
Akmal Nawaz of PML-N secured 197 votes, PTI candidate Saeed Awan secured 93 votes whereas PPP’s candidate Sarfraz Satti polled 91 votes.
Independent candidate Afzal Ahemad could bag 35.
In Gujar Khan, Raja Wajid of PML-N secured 285 votes defeating the PTI candidate Raja Sanaullah who bagged 165 votes.
In Jhelum 2, Imran Bashir Waheen of PML-N won the seat defeating the PTI candidate Qazi Tariq Aslam.
In Mangla Cantt 1 Tariq Khan of the PML-N secured 399 votes whereas his rival PTI Ch Anwarul Haq could get 185 votes.
In the Mangla 2, Haji Mohammad Riasat had been elected unopposed.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2015