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KASUR: After the former foreign minister Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri announced quitting local politics, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf stands divided in NA-138 because of past political rivalries among local groups.

According to local observers, Bukhtiar Kasuri, brother of Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri, a member of PTI core committee who was an aspirant for NA-138 ticket, was denied the same by the party. Now he was backing some PML-N candidates and independents who had been denied tickets by their parties.

Mr Bakhtiar Kasuri even held a press conference a few days back and openly announced his support for these candidates.

For the coming general elections in NA-138, the PTI has awarded ticket to Rashid Tufail, while the candidate for the PML-N is Malik Rasheed Ahmed. The provincial constituencies of NA-138 are PP-176 and PP-177.

At the press conference Kasuri had announced support for Dawood Qurashi for NA-138. Qurashi was a PML-N ticket aspirant for the constituency but after being denied the party ticket he was contesting as an independent candidate from there.

Following the writ petition of Mr Kasuri, Khudian had been attached to Kot Radha Kishan in NA-138.

Earlier, Khudian was attached to Kasur city. Before the delimitation, a large portion of NA-138 comprised old NA-140, the political battleground of two heavyweight politicians --Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali -- in the three previous general elections.

On Saturday, Kasuri set up a political office of Mr Qurashi in Khudian twon. Qurashi is a resident of Kot Radha Kishan and is the son of a former PML-N MPA, Anees Qurashi.

According to local political pundits, Kasuri’s opposition to PTI candidate Rashid Tufail in NA-138 could be harmful for the latter in some villages, including Khudian, Usmanwala, Pial Khurd, Pial Kalan, Dholan, Veeram, Jagian, Tara Gar, Gohr Hithar and Chabbar.

In PP-176, Bakhtiar Kasuri was supporting Barrister Shahid Masood, who is contesting as an independent candidate after being denied PTI ticket. Masood could take advantage of Kasuri’s support in Khudian, Dholan, Khurram Hithar and Skindarpura, according to local analysts.

Meanwhile, the PTI ticket holder in the constituency, Muhammad Hussain Dogar, a former PPP MPA, enjoys support of former tehsil nazim Mr Naveed Rizvi. He faces PML-N’s Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan, the former spokesperson of Punjab government.

Bukhtiar Kasuri was also openly backing PML-N candidate Ahsan Raza in PP-177, a former MPA of Nawaz league, and could garner support for him in Kanganpur, Usmanwala, Gohar Jageer, Shamkot and some other villages near the Indian border, including Manorian and Fateh Murad Kalan.

PTI had awarded ticket to Col retired Muhammad Hashim Dogar in the constituency for PP-177 that falls under both NA-138 and NA-139. In NA-139, Kasuri had announced support for the PML-N candidate, Rana Muhammad Ishaq, who is in a tough contest with PTI candidate Dr Azeemudin Zahid Lakhvi.

According to political analysts, by doing so Kasuri not only wanted to avenge the embarrassment caused to him by the PTI by denying him ticket but was also securing his future politics in the constituency.

They say that without Mr Khursheed Kasuri, his brother enjoyed the support of few UC chairmen and local groups (dharas) as majority of them were backing the PML-N. So Mr Kasuri preferred to support the PML-N candidates to please such elements keeping in view his future politics.

He was also opposing his traditional political rivals, including Malik group.

Mr Kasuri preferred to support the PML-N’s Ahsan Raza as Malik group was in favor of his rival independent candidate, Waqas Mokal, who had joined the party on the recommendation of Malik Rasheed Ahmed but could not get a ticket.

In 2008 general elections, Malik and Kasuri groups had opposed each other despite being in the PML-Q.

Barrister Bukhtiar Kasuri also said in the press conference that he was not opposing the PTI but was supporting individuals of his own choice.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018