SAHIWAL: Arain vote factor is likely to play a major role in deciding the the by-poll contest to be held in the National Assembly constituency NA-162, Chichawatni, on Monday (today).
According to local political observers the main contest would be between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Rai Murtaza and Pakistan Muslim League (N) candidate Tufail Jutt.
However, Pakistan People Party candidate Shahzad Saeed Cheema gettting “unpredictable” votes from Harrapa and Chichawatni city pockets, combined with the PML-N local leaders’ rifts may spoil the ruling party’s broth.
In the constituency, the casts -- Rajputs, Aarian, Jutts, Gujaar, Kumhaars (Rehmani) and local Ravi belt tribes like Kathiyas, Sanpaal, Dadrays and Lodhis are still a hard political reality.
Keeping this vital factor in view, both Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal, a local PML-N leader and a staunch opponent of Jutt brothers and Chaudhy Muhammad Sarwar, the ex-governor, are trying to secure at least a major chunk of more than 30,000 strong Arain vote bank spread in the rural and urban areas of the constituency for their respective parties.
Most of the Rajput voters will go for PTI’s Rai Murtaza, a nephew of Rai Hassan Nawaz, who had to vacate the seat because of his disqualification.
Many believe Chaudhry Zahid would not support his party candidate wholeheartedly. An associate of Mr Zahid, seeking anonymity, told Dawn that victory of Jutt brothers in the by-poll could be a massive blow to his (Zahid’s) own politics in the constituency. According to the associate, Mr Zahid announced support for PML-N candidate only to please MNA Hamza Shahabaz Sharif, who promised him district council top slot in return for withdrawing candidature of his brother Tahir Abdullah, an independent candidate. “And the Jutt brothers too know it to a large extent,” he added.
So, it is being apprehended by the PML-N camp that Zahid might not fully mobilise all the Arain voters in the constituency in support of Jutts. However, he would try to ensure PML-N candidate’s victory from his own village, 39/12-L. “This he (Zahid) needs to do to convince the party leadership of his sincerity,” he said.
Chaudhry Asif, a local real estate dealer, who also eyes district top slot, is said to be fully supporting Jutts, besides Haji Ayub and Arshad Lodhi of Harrpa town.
Chaudhry Sarwar visited all Arain-dominated pockets in the constituency, winning support of “settlers” for Rai Murtaza.
A local analyst, Usman Sagir, says that for PML-N, the Arain vote bank was divided, but that was not the case when it comes to PTI which is represented by the Rai family in the constituency.
Ex-MPA Chaudhry Hafeez Akhter, who had won 2008 election on PPP ticket, is also having close ties with Chaudhry Sarwar and some other PTI leaders.
On the PPP side, Qammar Zaman Kaira and Chaudhry Manzoor are canvassing regularly for Shahzad Saeed Cheema.
According to local sources, in many Ravi belt union councils falling in the constituency the actual contest is between the PTI and the PPP and in a few others the PML-N was challenging the former.
They say that the three Christian-dominated villages — 90/9-L, 8/11-L and 174/9-L — voters will fully support the PPP candidate.
Though most of Rajput vote will go to PTI’s Rai Murtaza, Rana Basit, of 15/11-L and some others of the biradari from 15 More, Ghazi Abad have announced support for PML-N’s Tufail Jutt.
Thanks to Hamza Shabaz Sharif’s visit to Harrapa, Pir Anees, elders of Gujjar baradri and traders bodies had also announced support for Jutt.
In Chichawatni, there were reports that PML-N had been trying hard to win over some chairmen/vice-chairmen by offering them some lucrative positions in the local government setup. The party succeeded in getting support of at least two of them -- Siyaal Kambho and Irfan Doger.
There are also 7,000-8,000 Rehmanai biradri’s votes in the city. The biradri had fielded their own candidate, Abdul Jabbar, because of their grievances allegedly caused by Jutt brothers. After Hamza’s visit to the constituency, Abdul Jabbar withdrew his candidature as one of their elder Sohail Javed was made Punjab chief minister’s adviser for Sahiwal division.
As far as sectarian vote is concerned, many Barailvee pockets are supporting PTI candidate, while all Ahl-i-Hadis are supporting PML-N man.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2016