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GUJRAT: The quote that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics best describes the political scenario in the district where a by-poll is scheduled for July 14 in the National Assembly constituency NA-63, Jhelum-II.

As many as seven candidates -- five having tickets of various political parties and two independents -- have filed their nomination papers for the NA-63 by poll. The seat had fallen vacant following the death of PML-N MNA and veteran parliamentarian Nawabzada Iqbal Mehdi on May 23 last.

Returning Officer (RO) Khuram Alam, also the district election commissioner, received the nomination papers.

According to the RO’s list, Nawabzada Matloob Mehdi is candidate of PML-N, Jahangir Mahmood Mirza of PPP, Chaudhary Fawad Hussain of PTI, Dewan Hashmat Hayat of PML-Q and Ziaul Haq is fielded by the JUI (F). Two others -- Mahmood Mirza Jhelumi and retired Maj Muhammad Raza Dhadhi -- are contesting the by-poll as independent candidates.

The PTI candidate for the by-poll, lawyer-turned-anchor Fawad Husain, who is nephew of former Punjab governor Chaudhry Altaf Hussain and ex-federal minister Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain, had started his political career by joining the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) of former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf. He then switched over his loyalties to the PPP and became an adviser to the party chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. But before 2013 elections, he quietly joined the PML-Q and contested from NA-63 on the party’s ticket, bagging third position by securing some 39,000 votes. Now Mr Fawad has got PTI ticket for the by-poll.

Similarly, Mahmood Mirza Jhelumi, who had been affiliated with some religious parties, joined the PTI long before 2013 general elections and was the PTI aspirant in the 2013 polls in NA-63. He was runner-up securing 42,800 votes. However, he joined the PPP after the PTI’s refusal to award him ticket. He has now pitched his son Jahangir Mirza as PPP nominee in the by-poll and became his covering candidate by filing his own nomination papers as an independent.

Former MNA Raja Muhammad Afzal, a stalwart in local politics, also changed loyalties thrice in the last three years. First, he along with his two sons Raja Asad and Raja Safdar, severed their decades-old affiliation with the PML-N to join the PPP ahead of the 2013 polls. He contested on both National Assembly seats of Jhelum but was defeated convincingly. Later, Raja joined the PTI but was ignored by the party leadership for NA-63 by-poll.

According to the sources, he had reconciled with the late Nawabzada Iqbal Mehdi of PML-N at personal level a few months ago and is yet to announce his course of action for the by-poll.

In the same way, Khadim Garmala and his younger brother Laal Hussain, who have been the ruling PML-N MNA and MPA, respectively, had previously been in the PPP and PML-Q.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2016