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KASUR: Language factor is going to play a significant role in NA-137, its-sub constituency PP-175, and NA-138, which have Mewati speaking people in huge numbers. Seeing the potential, seven candidates, namely two for National Assembly seats and five for provincial assembly seats, are trying to exploit the voters on basis of language.

A woman from Mewati clan, Nasira Mayo, is contesting the election as an independent candidate for NA-137, PTI’s Rashid Tufail, another Meo representative, is in the race for NA-138 while five independent candidates of the same clan are in the run for PP-175.

There are over 70,000 Meo voters in one constituency of NA-137 and a majority of them live in rural areas, particularly in the villages near the Indian border. The Meos are the Muslims originally belonging to Mewat region of India and there are two million Meos still spread across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan states of India to this day.

They speak Mewati which is very distinct from Punjabi and sounds similar to Urdu with phonemes closer to the national language. In India, the Meos of Mewat were also termed ‘old neighbours of New Delhi’ for living in the surrounds of the Indian capital. They take pride in their history and language as they resisted the foreign invaders, from Babur to the British.

In NA-137, the Meos are in majority in the villages, including Qadiwind, Khara, Herdo Sahari, Green Kot, Vadana, Katlohi, Sarhali, Bhalo, Vehgal, Kalian, Rai Kalan, Badian, Bahadarpur. There are in majority in many other villages in the vicinity of Mustafabad (Lalyani), including Vara Daleep Singh and small villages in the surrounding areas.

In the elections in the past in the constituency, in the absence of a Meo candidate, the vote was divided between the PML-N and PPP’s Manzoor Ahmed. Political observers say that now when a Meo candidate (Nasira) was there, the Mewati clan would prefer to vote for her as compared to any Punjabi speaking candidate.

The five Meo candidates for PP-175 are Muhammad Imran Mayo, Mufti Subhan, Dr Muhammad Tariq, Shoukat Ali, Muhammad Arshad and APML candidate Abdul Ghani Mayo.

Nasira Mayo is also the only female candidate who is contesting the election in Kasur district for National Assembly. Another woman candidate, Mozammal Masood Bhatti, of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), is in the contest for a provincial assembly seat.

Nasira, an old worker of the PPP, was an aspirant for NA-137 and NA-138 but she was denied a ticket by the party. Dejected by the party decision, she decided to contest the election as an independent candidate. She had an Oxford University graduate and was the vice president of PPP Punjab but she earned the ire of the party after she decided to contest the coming general election against the PPP; Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed.

She was a PPP candidate for NA-142 (old constituency) in 2008 election while in 2013, she had contested election for old NA-141 from the same party. It is pertinent to point out here that Meo were not in majority in NA-141 but the situation is different in NA-137 where she has a contest against Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali of the PTI, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed of the PPP and Saad Waseem of the PML-N.

Besides having an edge of Mewati clan, Nasira has the advantage of development works, especially Sui gas and electricity projects in Mustafabad.

A PTI worker confirmed that his party candidate is facing hardships to win over voters in the rural areas where Meo are in majority. Meo is an expat and she has been present in the constituency for the last 10 years and amassed support. Some political pundits claim the actual contest is between the PTI candidate and Nasira Mayo.

Seeing the situation and significant number of votes of Mewat clan, five abovementioned candidates, including four independent and one from the APML, have jumped into the political arena for the forthcoming election from PP-175.

The political analysts say five candidates from Meo clan would spoil the vote bank of the clan and none would win the election. This would result in a neck-and-neck contest between the PTI’s Mozammal Bhatti and the PML-N’s Malik Ahmed Saeed.

The language factor is also likely to play a role in NA-138 where Salman Hanif, former PML-N MNA of Meo clan, was denied a ticket by the party and it was awarded to Malik Rasheed Ahmed. PTI candidate Rashid Tufail is also from Meo clan and is the son of former PML-Q MNA Sardar Muhammad Tufail.

Salman Hanif, after being denied party ticket, is not openly supporting the PML-N candidate. His silence is a message to the Meos to support the PTI’s Rashid Tufail. Many Meo groups are openly supporting Tufail on the basis of language.

Villages in NA-138 that have Meos in majority include Bhamba, Rati Pindi, Nathokey, Grurkey Jugian, Chhena Otar, Hindal, Olakh, Kachi Line, Cham 55, Neiyakey, Bhuda Singh, Haveli Manjarwali, Lakho Kalan, Chhajokey, Aerpura, and Bhagial Singh.

Political observers say that if the Meos had an option of the candidate of their own clan, they would hardly vote for any Punjabi candidate. The Meo vote and the PTI’s own newly gained strength could pave the way for Tufail.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018