RAWALPINDI: Once the fort of PML-N, elections will not be as easy for the party in the Rawalpindi district due to fissures in the party.

The PML-N had won all seven National Assembly seats and the 14 provincial assembly seats in the 2008 general elections in the district but only secured four of the National Assembly seats and nine provincial assembly seats in the 2013 elections.

Like in other parts of the province, the PML-N is facing threats from within the party in the Rawalpindi district after the award of tickets for the July 25 elections.

This time, the party will be contesting without former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who decided to contest the elections independently because of what he says was a “mishandling” of the Supreme Court decision regarding the Panama Papers leaks.

This time, the elections on four main seats in the district will be especially interesting including in NA-59 which is a rural area of Rawalpindi, NA-63 which is rural Taxila and Rawalpindi, NA-57 which is Murree, and NA-60 and NA-62 in Rawalpindi city due to some influential political personalities contesting.

The party won all NA seats, 15 provincial assembly seats in 2008, four NA and nine provincial seats in 2013. Will fissures in party lead to an even worse performance?

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will be contesting from NA-59 and NA-63 and two provincial assembly seats as an independent candidate while two PML-N leaders have also submitted nomination papers from these constituencies.

Former MPA Qammarul Islam will face Chaudhry Nisar in NA-59 while Sardar Mumtaz will contest against him in Taxila.

On the other hand, former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Ghulam Sarwar Khan will contest against Chaudhry Nisar in NA-59 and NA-63.

The elections to both seats will be interesting, with the main contest being between Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

The other more interesting contest in the Rawalpindi district will be in NA-57, Murree where former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is facing his traditional PPP and PTI rivals. Though the main PPP leaders in Murree jointed the PTI, the party opted to give the party ticket to former president Punjab north, Sadaqat Abbasi.

The most challenging candidate in NA-62 is six time winner and former information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Former PML-N MNA Shakil Awan will not face Sheikh Rashid as the party did not give him the ticket and instead fielded Daniyal Chaudhry, who is new in politics. He is the son of veteran politician, Chaudhry Tanveer. The senator is seen to be very loyal to Nawaz Sharif, especially to Begum Kalsoon Nawaz as he helped her launch a movement in Rawalpindi for the release of her husband during Gen Musharraf’s tenure.

A lawyer by profession, Daniyal Chaudhry is known to be more close to Maryam Nawaz and was part of her social media desk the last five years, during the PML-N’s tenure in the centre.

And though Malik Shakil defeated Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in the 2010 by-elections, the party decided he will contest the elections for PA-18 instead.

A senior party leader told Dawnthat Chaudhry Tanveer wanted the party’s ticket for NA-60 for his son but the party did not want to lose former MNA Hanif Abbasi. Therefore, the party decided Daniyal Chaudhry will contest for the National Assembly from the city areas and that Malik Shakil will contest for the provincial assembly.

“I worked day and night in NA-62 but I accepted the party decision,” Mr Awan toldDawn.

He conceded that there are some divisions in the party at the city level but they will be sorted out once Nawaz Sharif comes to the city for election campaigns.

During the previous elections, Sheikh Rashid had defeated PML-N with the support of PTI and PPP’s non-serious attitude in local politics.

Things are not that different for Sheikh Rashid though, since he still has to face competition and has the support of Imran Khan.

Meanwhile, PPP has not fielded any prominent candidates for the upcoming elections.

In NA-60, PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi is facing Sheikh Rashid, the ephedrine case and the unsupportive attitude of the party’s union council chairman, most of whom belong to the Senator Chaudhry Tanveer group.

A senior PML-N leader told Dawn that the party will likely benefit from the fissures in the PTI over the award of party tickets to new comers. However, he said that if people took into account the development works done in the area, the PML-N might just win the elections.

Disgruntled PML-N workers have reportedly started a campaign against the party and if this continues, the party may lose its chance to once again win the seats which it secured in the previous elections.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2018