OKARA: Before the NA-144 by-poll schedule was announced, Riazul Haq was not the choice of the PML-N. On October 11, when the young scion of the Nemat family of Okara city posted a very convincing victory as an independent candidate against PML-N’s Ali Arif Chaudhry, now Riazul Haq, alias Juj, has been contacted by both the PML-N and the PTI to join their parties.

Mr Juj won the by-poll with 85,714 votes against PML-N’s Ali Arif, who remained runner-up with 45,199 votes.

Mr Juj is, however, not in a hurry to decide about his political journey.

“First of all, I’d go to my constituents, including minorities, for consultation regarding my party choice,” he told reporters on Monday. He said he would announce his decision after taking oath as a National Assembly member.

The rise of Mr Juj in the presence of candidates of the ruling PML-N, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and PPP indicates new political trends emerging on the scenario.

It seems that the public elected Mr Juj to acknowledge the welfare work by Mr Juj’s ‘Nemat’ family for the people of Okara city. The family has undertaken several projects in the health and education sectors. Their Fazal Din Trust Hospital and Nemat Family Hospital provide free medical treatment to local patients while one school in Sher Rabbani town and another girls-only in Masters Park provide free education to the students of Okara city. The Nemat family has long been running oil, ghee and papers mills besides a newly-launched independent power plant.

Before the by-poll, the Nemat family was considered an apolitical entity, and its members had just taken part in local body polls for two times.

When an election tribunal disqualified PML-N’s Arif Chaudhry, Mr Juj applied for a PML-N ticket but the party turned down his plea. Earlier in the 2013 general elections, Mr Juj had gone to the PML-N for NA-144 ticket.

When he filed nomination papers as an independent candidate for the bye-poll, the political commentators were not counting him as a major candidate. With the passage of time, he began gaining popularity in the constituency. Just in a three-week electioneering, he staged a huge upset.

The victory of Mr Juj is sure to send alarm bells to the ruling PML-N, which stands the biggest loser in the election. In the 2013 elections, Arif Chaudhry had got 102,000 votes. This time, his son as a PML-N candidate failed to win even a single polling station in the 35 wards of the Okara municipality. The MPAs of allied PP-190 and 191 worked hard for the PML-N candidate but failed.

The constituency has nearly 10,000 Benazir Income Support Programme card holders but the number was not translated in PPP favour. PPP’s candidate for NA-144 in the 2013 elections was Begum Shafiqa Sikandar Iqbal. She had got 33,000 votes. This time, PPP candidate Sajjdul Hassan ended up with a few thousands votes.

Meher Abdul Sattar, who contested for PP-191 on a PPP ticket in the 2013 general elections, had got 32,000 votes. This time as an independent candidate, he got 14,186 votes. PTI’s Asharf Sohna lost his political stature in the by-poll. He had lost election as a PPP MPA candidate in the 2013 elections against Mian Muhammad Munir of the PML-N. Then, he had got 17,800 votes, while in the by-election, he could secured 6,356 votes even though PTI chief Imran Khan had addressed a big rally in the city on Oct 7.

Published in Dawn, October 13th , 2015

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