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SAHIWAL: After quitting of its former district president Ahmad Raza Maneka and reduction of a National Assembly seat in the latest delimitation, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is finding it hard to pick its candidates for NA-145, Pakpattan-1 and the provincial assembly constituencies falling under it.

Before the fresh delimitation the district had three National Assembly seats — NA-164, 165 and 166. However, following the delimitation it has been left with NA-145 and NA-146. The NA-145 has been carved out of two previous constituencies — NA-164 and NA-165.

Because of reduction in the district’s seats, it has become difficult for the PTI to accommodate all the aspirants of its ticket from NA-145.

On the other hand the rival PML-N that had won all the three seats in the district in the 2013 poll has almost finalised its candidates for both the National Assembly constituencies.

The Maneka family had been in the politics even before the independence, and has a strong clan-based vote bank in the area. As per sources close to the family, Mr Ahmed Raza Maneka, brother of Khawar Raza Maneka, ex-husband of PTI chairman Imran Khan’s third wife Ms Bushera Maneka, had been opposing the interaction between Imran Khan and Ms Bushra. He had resigned from the district office of the party with two months of the disclosure of the marriage between Mr Khan and his brother’s wife.

Ahmed Raza Maneka had won 2002 election and was runner up in 2008 on a PML-Q ticket. Later, he joined the PTI. During 2013 election he was runner up on a PTI ticket with 55,271 votes from NA-165. He popularised the party in the area by bringing in the Chishtees of Pakpattan. Later, he was elevated to the PTI’s district president slot in 2016.

After his quitting of the PTI, the party leadership gave the slot to Rao Naseem Hashim who had contested 2013 election on the PTI ticket from (previous) NA-164, Pakpattan-I and secured third position. Muhammad Shah Khagga was the runner up in the constituency with 65,630 votes on a PML-Q ticket.

After Ahmed Raza quit the party, Mr Khagga joined the PTI. Now, both Rao Naseem Hashim and Ahmed Shah Khagga are in the run for the PTI ticket for NA-145. The party has yet to decide its candidate.

In 2013 poll, the PML-N had won all the three seats -- its candidates Rai Mansab Ali Doger won in NA-164, Tahir Husain Gillani NA-165 and Rana Zahid had clinched NA-166. In (previous) NA-165 and NA-166, both the PTI candidates, Ahmed Raza Manika and Mian Muhammad Amjad Joya were runners up with 55,270 and 49,270 votes, respectively.

Now Mr Joya has shifted to NA-146 with the PTI ticket. As per sources, after quitting the PTI, Ahmed Raza Maneka is struggling hard to join the PML-N but in the presence of his old political rivals Mansab Ali Dogar and Rana Zahid, he will find it hard to penetrate into the party for the ticket.

As per sources, for NA-146, both Rana Zahid of the PML-N and Amjad Joya of the PTI have been declared candidates by their respective parties, but situation in the NA-145 is not clear because of indecision of the PTI leadership.

Interestingly, on Eid Day, Rao Naseem Hashim, with his followers, visited Baba Farid’s Shrine on behalf of Imran Khan and Ms Bushra and laid wreathes at the saint’s grave.

According to sources, in case Mr Khagga is denied PTI ticket for NA-145, he can forge an electoral alliance with the Manieas, making it difficult for the PTI to win the seat. Such an alliance will also create difficulties for PML-N’s Mansab Ali Dogar because both Khaggas and Manekas’s are against him, a local political analyst says.

There are three provincial seats (PP-191, 192 & PP-193) that fall under NA-145 and the PTI has yet to decided its candidates for these provincial assembly constituencies too.

There is a strong contest between Dewan Azmat Chishti and Mahar Moeenuddin Chishti for PP-192 for the PTI ticket. Of the two aspirants Mr Azmat is a relatively senior party member while Mahar Moeen has recently joined the PTI through Mr Jahangir Tareen.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2018