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RAWALPINDI: Alerted by the possible delimitation of his National Assembly constituency, disgruntled senior leader of the ruling PML-N Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has begun visiting parts of NA-52 to woo voters, with general elections just a few months away.

The former interior minister, who has been at odds with party head Nawaz Sharif over the latter’s anti-judiciary and anti-establishment tirade, opted not to join the current cabinet of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after Mr Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama case.

Since then Chaudhry Nisar has been busy meeting voters and union council chairmen in a bid to consolidate chances of his victory in the next elections. Though Chaudhry Nisar did not remain in direct contact with voters in the past, his secretaries ran the day-to-day affairs of his constituencies in Rawalpindi and Taxila.

But the recent political development has forced him to make direct contact with the voters. During his visit to Adiala Road and adjoining areas last week, he spoke about his development projects in parts of the constituency which may be merged with NA-55 or NA-56 under the new delimitation.

Chaudhry Nisar is meeting union council chairmen to consolidate chances of victory in next elections

As per the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), a National Assembly constituency will consist of a maximum population of 780,000. As the population of NA-55 crossed the figure of one million in the 2017 census, parts of it would be added to the two adjoining constituencies - NA-55 consisting of Raja Bazaar and adjoining areas and NA-56 stretching from Faizabad to Chandni Chowk.

The ECP has started the process of delimitation on the basis of the provisional report of the census 2017.

A leader of the PML-N told Dawn that an election campaign had been launched in the garrison city and senior party leaders were meeting with party workers and local people.

“Chaudhry Nisar visited Adiala Road and adjoining areas which is not unusual as he wanted to woo the voters and get to know about their problems,” he said.

He said the union council chairmen were inviting such meetings as the seats of District Council chairman and vice chairmen were still vacant even though the local government elections were held in 2015.

He said the election on the district council seats was not held due to a stay order issued by Lahore High Court but the ruling party deliberately did not make any effort to complete the process.

“The role of Chaudhry Nisar has not been active in the party organisation after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.”

He said Senator Chaudhry Tanveer was working in different constituencies to make ground to launch his son, Barrister Daniyal but it would be difficult for him to get a launching pad from NA-52 which is still in the hands of Chaudhry Nisar.

Another senior party leader requesting not to be named said the Punjab government and the PML-N organisation were under the control of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who was a big supporter of Chaudhry Nisar. In the presence of the Nisar-Shahbaz duo, it would be difficult for others to change the candidates from the constituency.

He said development works in Rawalpindi had slowed down due to a lack of interest on part of the PML-N local leaders. “We did not know which area will be included in NA-56 and NA-55 or in NA-52 so it will be wastage of time to try wooing the voters at this stage,” he said.

When contacted, PML-N city general secretary and former MNA Haji Pervaiz said the delimitation would add some areas of NA-52 near Islamabad Expressway to NA-56 and some cantonment areas would be shifted to NA-55.

To a question, he said: “Chaudhry sahib is meeting people to get information about their problems so it could be resolved. Earlier, he remained busy in the interior ministry but now he is spending time with the voters,” he said.

Former MNA Malik Shakil Awan, who is preparing to contest from NA-55, said more areas would be added to NA-55 from cantonment areas.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2018