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MURREE: PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have started the process of selecting candidates in NA-50, the constituency of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Former president and PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari will soon be addressing a public meeting in the constituency.

The incumbent prime minister was defeated in the 2002 election by Ghulam Murtaza Satti in the elections of 2002, the only defeat Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has faced in his political career which started in 1988.

Unlike rest of northern Punjab, PPP can give the PML-N good competition if it fields its candidate from Kotli Sattian

Mr Satti contested the 2013 elections on a PPP ticket and lost to Mr Abbasi with a heavy margin. He joined PTI a few months ago and is likely to be contesting the elections with the party ticket against Mr Abbasi in the upcoming general elections.

PTI’s Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, who secured 47,000 votes in the 2013 elections, has started campaigning in NA-50 for the 2018 general elections even though Mr Satti will likely be PTI’s candidate for these polls. PPP has not yet finalised its candidate but Mr Zardari has held many meetings in this regard with senior party leaders in Islamabad.

According to sources in the PPP who were part of these meetings, the party leadership is thinking about joining hands with the PTI so that both parties support an independent candidate in order to give PM Abbasi a tough competition.

NA-50 consists of three main tehsils of the Rawalpindi district and parts of a fourth tehsil, Kallar Syedan.

Murree Tehsil is dominated by the Abbasi tribe and Kotli Sattian by the Sattis. However, Ghulam Murtaza Satti resides in Kahuta. It has been tradition since long for parties to award a National Assembly ticket to one clan and a provincial assembly ticket to another in order to gather maximum support.

Kotli Sattian is the most underdeveloped tehsil in the constituency and no political party has ever awarded a ticket to a candidate in Kotli Sattian.

There is a strong demand from Kotli Sattian from this and there is an expectation that the party which awards its ticket to a candidate from here will get the maximum votes, irrespective of party affiliation. The PML-N is not in a position to bring a candidate from this tehsil as its candidate for the National Assembly- PM Abbasi- and that for the Punjab Assembly- Raja Ishfaq Sarwar- are from Murree Tehsil.

The PTI can also not award a ticket to any candidate from Kotli Sattian as its candidate for the National Assembly, Murtaza Satti, is from Kahuta and both Sadaqat Abbasi and Sardar Saleem Khan are from Murree Tehsil.

So, fielding a candidate from Kotli Sattian is left to the PPP, the leadership of which is thinking about awarding either of the tickets to a candidate from this tehsil.

Though defeating PM Abbasi will be a difficult task, unlike other parts of northern Punjab, the PPP can give the PML-N good competition in this constituency if it fields a candidate from Kotli Sattian.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2018