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ABBOTTABAD: Absence of party’s heavyweight Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan from the scene and quitting of Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is finding it hard to win the two national assembly seats in its traditional stronghold of Abbottabad.

For PML-N electioneering is limited to individual efforts by the contestants, who are finding it rather difficult to muster the public support.

Sardar Mahtab, considered to be heavyweight and the ‘kingmaker’, is edged out of the political scene by a lobby led by retired captain Safdar, the son-in-law of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. And if PML-N loses any seat it will be because of absence of Sardar Mahtab.

Further, with the party’s top leadership in hot waters due to one reason or the other, the candidates have to run their campaign individually which is a major setback for them.

For Abbottabad’s two national seats -- NA-15 and NA-16 -- Murtaza Javed Abbasi and Malik Mohabat Awan are in the race, but they are facing tough challenge from PTI’s Ali Asghar Khan and Ali Khan Jadoon.

The party faces another challenge in the person of Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob, who is contesting on the symbol of ‘Jeep’. He will benefit from being a local resident with lot of support from his tribe, and sympathies of the supporters of Baba Haider Zaman, who got fame for launching movement for Hazara province.

PTI is well-placed in NA-16, as Ali Jadoon, from the second generation of the Jadoon family, is considered as favourite to grab the seat for his humble nature and politeness.

The PTI’s position can be dented by the four independents who made the decision after being denied the ticket.

Those who were not awarded ticket included PTI general secretary Hazara Asif Zubair Sheikh, former MPA Sardar Mohammad Idrees, former PTI candidate Sajajd Akbar and former NA deputy speaker Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob.

The recent public meeting addressed by Imran Khan failed to attract as much crowd as in 2013 because of denial of tickets to ‘diehard’ workers.

Shaukat Khan Tanoli, former naib nazim of Abbottabad, who faced the defection clause of PTI and was de-seated by the party, is emerging as the main challenger to both the PML-N and PTI candidates in NA-16. He is showing improvement in his campaign with the support of some of the old PTI workers and people of his tribe.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018