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SAHIWAL: The PML-N has announced most of its National Assembly candidates from Punjab, but has held back on awarding a ticket to expected candidate and former MNA Rai Mansab Ali Dogar from NA-145 (formerly NA-163 and 164) Pakpattan-I.

The reason is not that there are two or more aspirants for the party ticket, but the obvious reason is Ahmed Raza Maneka. There are strong rumours that the PML-N high command persuaded Dogar to withdraw from his NA candidature and allow the party to award the ticket to Maneka. Maneka had quit Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) after the marriage of his former sister-in-law Bushra Maneka with PTI Chairman Imran Khan. Bushra was the wife of Khawar Farid Maneka, an elder brother of Ahmed Maneka.

Ahmed was a PTI candidate and runner-up in the 2013 elections from former NA-165 (now NA-146) Pakpattan-II and bagged 55,279 votes. After quitting the PTI, he had been in touch with Hamza Shahbaz and his father Shahbaz Sharif.

Two days ago, Hamza had called a meeting in Lahore and invited both Dogar and Ahmed Maneka and, reportedly, proposed that Dogar withdraw from the race voluntarily so that the party could award the ticket to Maneka. The meeting happened through the Hamza Shahbaz’s connections with Ahmed’s elder brother, Moazzam Maneka.

Dogar had won the 2013 elections as a PML-N candidate from the former NA-163 with 67,989 votes. He is said to be unhappy with the proposal and walked away from the meeting. Later, the PML-N’s district leadership expressed resentment over Hamza’s proposal and support for Dogar.

Dogar also categorically conveyed to the PML-N parliamentary board, including Hamza Shahbaz, that if he was not awarded the ticket he would not only contest as an independent candidate, but also return the ticket of his nephew, Waqas Ali Dogar, from PP-193.

Sources privy to the situation told Dawn that in the instance that Mansab Dogar was not awarded a ticket, he and his nephew Waqas would contest the election as independent candidates from NA-145 and PP-193, respectively. “The other option Dogar has is to contest simultaneously from NA-145 and PP-193 by withdrawing his nephew’s candidature,” the sources added.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday called both Ahmed Maneka and Mansab Dogar to his Lahore residence. Till the filing of this report, no final decision had been taken on whom to field as the PML-N’s candidate from NA-145.

If Maneka was denied the ticket, it is said he would contest as an independent candidate from the National Assembly constituency and his younger brother, Farooq Maneka, from PP-191 or 193.

The Maneka group claims it has assurance from Hamza Shahbaz that they would be awarded the ticket, while PML-N leadership says the final decision will be taken by party president who is consulting both contestants.

Meanwhile, the PTI has finalised Muhammad Shah Khagga as its candidate from NA-145. Rao Naseem Hashim was the other candidate for the ticket. Hashim has been given the option to contest from either PP-191 or -193.

In 2013, Hashim had contested the election on a PTI ticket from former NA-164 Pakpattan-I and secured third position, while Khagga was the runner-up with 65,630 votes as the PML-Q candidate.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2018