GUJRAT: The ruling PML-N now faces desertions in the central Punjab region of Gujranwala after seeing defections of its lawmakers from south Punjab as two of its sitting MNAs from Gujranwala have so far joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Among them is veteran Muslim Leaguer and former federal minister Rana Nazir Ahmed of Kamoke and his sons — Rana Umer Nazir (MNA) and Aamir Nazir, vice chairman of the Gujranwala District Council.

Earlier, some two months ago, party MNA Mian Tariq Mahmood had shifted loyalties for being annoyed over the dominance of the Dastgir family in the regional politics of the PML-N.

Dramatic change in Kamoki election scene

Once considered close to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Rana Nazir and his son Rana Umer Nazir Khan, MNA from NA-99, had called on PTI Chairman Imran Khan in Islamabad on Thursday.

However, this is not for the first time that Rana Nazir has ditched the PML-N. He did so in 2002 election when he joined the PML-Q and fielded Umer Nazir for the first time who won NA-99 -- now NA-83 after fresh delimitation.

Rana Nazir returned to the PML N and himself contested and won the 2008 elections whereas in 2013 Umer Nazir won as the PML-N candidate.

Talking to Dawn, MNA Umer Nazir said differences of his family with the PML-N leadership had started in local body elections of December 2016 when the party did not award a ticket for the Gujranwala ZC chairman slot to his younger brother, Aamir Nazir. Instead, he said, the party nominated the brother of another MNA Azhar Qayyum and ex-MNA Mudassar Qayyum Nahra despite the Ranas had majority of ZC seats.

He said their group had suggested to the leadership to declare the ZC chairman election as open but their demand was turned down.

“After this I did not support any PML-N move in parliament regarding the issue of Finality of the Prophethood as well as on the matter of amending the law aimed at making Nawaz president of the party after his disqualification by the Supreme Court.”

Rana Nazir had once joined forces with Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Abdul Sattar Laleka, Malik Naeem and others in helping the former PM to take control of the PML from then party leader, Muhammad Khan Junejo, in 1990.

“I have being doing politics from the PML platform for the last 40 years but now I feel the PML-N has become a family party rather than a political party of masses. Whereas the PTI seems to be the only party in the country that has no culture of dynastic politics,” says Rana Nazir.

Mr Ahmed had started his political career with local government elections of 1979 and served as the district council chairman of Gujranwala (1987-1991). He won NA elections five times – in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1997 and 2008. He lost only once in his political career at the hands of PPP’s Abdullah Virk in the 1993 general elections.

Rana Nazir was arrested in a corruption case filed by the National Accountability Bureau in 1999 and was released after three years and straightway he joined the PML-Q.

On the other hand, ex-PPP MPA Zulfiqar Bhinder who was the runner-up as a PPP candidate against Rana Umer Nazir in 2013, had already joined the PTI which had reportedly pledged to award him a ticket in 2018 against Rana Umer whereas PTI’s former ticket holder Rana Sajid Shaukat and former MNA Abdullah Virk’s scion Asim Abdullah were also among the aspirants of the PTI ticket. But Rana Nazir’s entry into the PTI has upset local rival groups.

It is learnt that Zulfiqar Bhinder and Asim Abdullah Virk may join the PML-N to get the ticket after the latest development.

Zulfiqar Bhinder had bagged some 40,000 votes as a PPP candidate in NA-99 in 2013 which were the highest votes taken by any PPP nominee in Gujranwala district despite the party’s poor showing.

He claimed that the PTI leadership had made a commitment to award him the ticket and he would throw a challenge to Imran Khan to conduct a survey about his popularity and that of Rana Nazir.

He dispelled reports of his likely joining the PML-N in reaction to the fresh developments.

Bhinder as a PPP nominee had defeated a former provincial minister Rana Shamshad (late) in 2008 on Kamoke city’s constituency of PP-61 which was later on won by Shamshad in 2013 but, after his assassination, his brother Rana Akhtar won it in by-elections.

So keeping in view his previous political rivalry with Rana Shamshad family, the local sources say that MPA Rana Akhtar would prefer to recommend Asim Abdullah Virk as a possible choice for PML N nominee from NA-83 instead of Mr Bhinder. However, at the same time the latter too enjoys good ties with PML-N ex-MNA Mudassar Nahra to get the ‘N’ ticket.

Rana Nazir on the other had says that he had also made an offer to MPA Rana Akhtar to join the PTI since his brother Rana Shamshad had paired him in the previous elections.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018

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