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FAISALABAD: Five members of the National Assembly (MNAs) have joined hands to stop a ‘turncoat’ from obtaining the party ticket for the slot of Zila Council (ZC) chairman and decided to send names of two candidates to the top leadership.

Sources told Dawn that Rajab Baloch (NA-78, Tandlianwala), Mian Farooq (NA-80, Dijkot), Talal Chaudhry (NA-76 Jaranwala), Shahbaz Gujjar (NA-79 Samundri) and Ghulam Rasool Sahi (NA-75 Chak Jhumra) decided to approach Nawaz Sharif through a former senator so that the party could field a ‘strong’ candidate keeping in view the next general elections. They said the MNAs decided to send the name of Qasim Farooq, president of PML-N Faisalabad chapter, and Junaid Afzal Sahi, son of former Punjab Assembly speaker Afzal Sahi, who is now MPA from PP-52.

Seven national assembly constituencies consist of rural areas of Faisalabad and another MNA of rural area, Dr Nisar (NA-81), will also be taken into confidence. However, the MNAs have decided that they would not contact MNA Asim Nazir (NA-77), who joined the PML-N just months before the last general elections as his brother Zahid Nazir is struggling to get the party ticket for the chairman slot, sources said.

As many as 189 union council chairmen would cast their vote for the Zila Council chairman slot, of them 159 chairmen belong to the PML-N.

Qasim Farooq is son of seven-time MNA Mian Farooq. Moazam Farooq, elder brother of Qasim, had been the ZC chairman in the past and this time the family is struggling for the same slot with the help of other parliamentarians.

Sources said on one side the MNAs wanted to stop ‘turncoat’ Zahid Nazir from obtaining the party ticket, on the other hand they would tip the name of Junaid whose father was Punjab Assembly speaker on the PML-Q ticket. Ghualm Rasool Sahi, elder brother of Afzal Sahi, had also been MNA from the PML-Q ticket.

They said instead of suggesting the name of Junaid to the party leadership, the MNAs must put forward the name of a ‘staunch’ party worker. They said the parliamentarians were trying to perpetuate the rule of families in the local bodies system rather to bring new faces.

The former senator will meet the prime minister shortly with the names of both candidates so that the premier’s consent could be obtained to ease the tension persisting in the party. Following consent of the PM, the sources said, the rejected candidate would campaign for the selected one to ensure his victory.

In the last general elections, the PML-N leadership had directed its leaders and former MPAs to refrain from opposing the candidates fielded by the party, otherwise their basic membership would be cancelled. However, the leaders had turned a deaf ear to the direction and favoured their ‘blue-eyed’ candidates.

Sources said the five MNAs were not ready to accept Zahid Nazir following frequent change of loyalties by him and his younger brother Asim Nazir. They said Zahid had been district nazim on the PML-Q ticket and Asim Nazir also won the MNA slot from NA-77 on its platform.

In the last general elections, the PML-N accommodated Asim Nazir in NA-77 by refusing ticket to Talal Chaudhry although he was ready to face Nazir in NA-77. Nazir had defeated Chaudhry in the 2008 elections.

Chaudhry was adjusted in NA-76 and he obtained 101,797 votes by defeating PPP’s Nawab Sher Waseer who bagged 35,750 votes.

Similarly, Nazir secured 98,057 votes by defeating his former aide Chaudhry Zahiruddin of the PML-Q (58,680).

Some party insiders said coalition of MNAs was not surprising for them because such parliamentarians except Dr Nisar and Sahi had also sent a letter to the PM against Asim Nazir following billion of rupees gas theft at the family factory of Nazir.

A squad had detected gas theft worth more than Rs1 billion in the Masood Textile Mills (MTM) owned by Nazir family in 2012.

They said the MNAs would meet the chief minister as well so that he could also be taken into confidence for a ‘strong’ candidate.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2016