LAHORE: In a significant development, Maryam Nawaz has refused to contest one of Lahore’s key constituencies, NA-125, which she hardly sees as a safe bet in the current situation.

In keeping with her desire PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday awarded NA-127 ticket to Maryam after withdrawing her from NA-125 the ticket which was awarded to her on Saturday last. The PML-N had earlier awarded NA-127 ticket to party’s Lahore head Pervaiz Malik who convincingly won the seat against the PTI candidate in the 2013 general election.

Award of tickets: NA-125 or 127 — Maryam walks a tightrope

“The prime reason behind sudden change of her mind is Maryam Bibi is not in a position to run a campaign for NA-125 which she thinks is a constituency she cannot win while being in London. It is not possible for her to return immediately leaving her ailing mother unattended,” an aide to Maryam told Dawn.

He said: “Maryam has to make this decision with a heavy heart as she did not want to stay away from a constituency where her father Nawaz Sharif and mother Begum Kulsoom Nawaz won in the past and she remained on the forefront to run their campaign in the 2013 general election and 2017 by-poll, respectively,” he said.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn that it was the party leadership’s decision to change Maryam Nawaz’s constituency.

“The leadership considers it better to field Maryam Bibi on NA-127,” she added.

Asked whether Pervaiz Malik would now contest NA-125, she said: “The leadership will take a final decision in this regard.”

Responding to the development, Mr Malik said: “The whole of Lahore is considered the PML-N stronghold. I had requested Maryam Bibi to contest from my constituency and it’s an honour for me that she has decided to do so. I will wholeheartedly run her campaign and ensure her victory with a significant margin”.

As for the question from where he would like to contest now, the former federal commerce minister said: “Whatever decision the party leadership takes I will accept it.”

A source, however, said Mr Malik might not opt to contest NA-125.

“There are consultations under way to field Mr Malik either on NA-133 or NA-123 on his request,” the source said.

The party has already awarded tickets to Waheed Alam and Malik Riaz for NA-133 and NA-123, respectively.

Earlier, Bilal Yasin, a relative of Begum Kusloom Nawaz, had also requested the party leadership to consider him for the NA-125 ticket if Maryam Bibi opts for the other seat. Mr Yasin was elected in 2013 polls on a provincial seat falling in NA-125 (previously NA-120). He, along with Maryam, had run a vigorous campaign for Begum Kulsoom last September.

The source said National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq who submitted his nomination papers for NA-125 could surprise many by switching at the eleventh hour from constituency NA-129 (to avoid PTI’s strong candidate Aleem Khan) to NA-125.

Speaking to reporters in London, Maryam Nawaz said: “I had requested the leadership for NA-125 ticket but it decided to field me on NA-127. I haven’t changed my constituency because it has been announced today. I will contest election according to the direction of the party leadership.”

There were reports that many unfavourable factors in NA-125 forced Maryam to think about NA-127 option.

“In NA-125 a number of PML-N chairmen are not happy with the leadership and are hardly expected to work hard for Maryam’s campaign. There has been a biradari vote (Arain factor) which many in the PML-N think may go in favour of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid. Besides, religious vote is likely to go against the PML-N candidate,” the source said, adding that the PML-N had also conducted a survey in the constituency that suggested that Maryam had to work hard like she did in the by-poll campaign last year as Dr Yasmin Rashid is a strong PTI candidate who is doing an intense door-to-door campaign.

NA-127 was previously NA-123 from where Pervaiz Malik bagged more than 125,000 votes in 2013 and defeated PTI’s Atif Chaudhry with a margin of more than 95,000 votes. The PTI has awarded ticket to Jamshed Iqbal Cheema on this constituency this time round.

Dr Rashid told Dawn that she continued fighting despite defeat at the hands of the ruling family. “I am going for a door-to-door campaign to create awareness among people and hope the efforts will prove fruitful,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2018



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