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MULTAN: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf dissidents may dent the vote bank of the party Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is contesting election from a national and a provincial assembly constituency in the city.

An independent candidate, Salman Naeem, was denied the PTI ticket for PP-217 after the PTI vice-chairman decided to contest the election from the constituency which also falls under NA-156, where Mr Qureshi is a candidate.

As per locals, Mr Naeem, has done a lot a of charity work in the area from where he is contesting for the first time.

He was once considered very close to the PTI vice chairman. Naeem is running his campaign vigorously and is optimistic about his position.

When asked if he is going to gift the seat to the PTI if he won it, he said: “Any decision in this regard will be taken after consulting the people who are supporting me,” Mr Naeem said.

He said his decision to contest the election was not sudden, adding that he was active in the constituency before the announcement of election.

Mr Naeem said it was not he who ditched the PTI but the party had refused him the ticket.

“The party leadership should be asked why they did not keep their promise of awarding me the ticket,” he said. He claimed he was receiving amazing response from the voters.

“At individual level, I have already been doing my best to help the people and after winning the election I will be able to serve them at larger scale,” he said. He said he had asked his supporters to vote according to their own choice in the National Assembly constituency.

Tasneem Kausar, the wife of former provincial minister Abdul Waheed Arain is the PML-N candidate for PP-127.

The political circles are of the view that the rift between Mr Arain and Rana Mahmoodul Hasan, another prominent PML-N leader in the area, is likely to benefit Mr Naeem as Rana group will prefer him over the PML-N and PTI candidates.

No one was expecting that Amir Manzoor Ansari, a PTI activist, could be the PML-N candidate for PP-215, while Amir Saeed Ansari, a former PML-N MPA would jump into the contest for NA-156, instead of contesting for the provincial assembly seat.

Ansari clan has a sizeable vote bank in the constituency and had played a prominent role in the victory of PTI vice chairman in 2013 general election.

Local observers say that Mr Amir Ansari’s decision to contest election on the PML-N ticket was politically devastating for the PTI candidate for PP-215, Haji Javed Ansari, it would divide the Ansari vote of the latter. They say that Amir Ansari will also get a sizeable vote of Ansari bridari against Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

“We have been associated with the PML-N since decades and were not comfortable with the PTI, so we decided to rejoin the old party,” said Ammar Manzoor Ansari, the elder brother of Amir Ansari.

He said Javed Ansari, who was elected as PMA because of the bridari vote failed to solve the issues the people of the constituency were facing, while Mr Qureshi never visited the area during his last tenure as an MNA.

Imran Liaqat, a PML-N activist contesting as an independent candidate from PP-215, however, alleged that former MNA Abdul Ghaffar Dogar and Mr Arain had sold out the party ticket to Amir Ansari.

He said the workers who stood by the party through thick and thin were ignored.

“Raids were conducted on our house. I and my father were arrested several times whenever the party faced tough time but such sacrifices were ignored while awarding tickets,” he complained.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018