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TAXILA: Manoeuvring is at its peak as the two major contenders – the PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) – square off to capture PP-3 (Attock-III) on July 25.

This constituency was won by PML-N’s Shahwaiz Khan in 2013, who secured 40,897 votes against Jamshaid Altaf of the Maj Tahir Sadiq group who received 39,622, and PTI’s Mohammad Akbar who secured 22,747.

The Maj Tahir Sadiq group has now joined with the PTI, leading to a one-on-one competition between former district nazim retired Maj Tahir Sadiq from the PTI and Asif Ali Malik – former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s nephew – from the PML-N.

As campaigning enters the final round in this constituency, candidates and their supporters can be seen engaged in hectic, dawn-to-dusk electioneering. Aspiring candidates can be seen participating in personal indoor meetings during the day and then addressing public meetings as the sun sets. Banners, portraits and other election paraphernalia decorate streets, markets, roads and other public places.

While Jamaat-i-Islami, PPP, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and independents will be contesting the constituency, pundits say the contest is between the PTI and the PML-N.

Mr Sadiq enjoys a strong political position and a following amongst the major families of the area, and his joining the PTI has changed the area’s political landscape. With his personal track record in the area, deep-rooted contacts with baradari heads and local influential figures, his intact vote bank and the PTI’s support, analysts believe Mr Sadiq is in a strong position for July 25, particularly due to rifts within the campaigns of his major political rivals.

Political observer Ghulam Haider told Dawn that the Hassanabdal constituency is no longer a PML-N stronghold. He said PML-N assemblies’ members had failed to serve the public, compelling people to opt for Imran Khan and his party.

Shahid Khan, a senior journalist, said the PML-N representatives’ ‘hallmark performance’ could be summed up with a look around the city.

“There are piles of garbage of city roads. The air is polluted from the burning of garbage; health and education facilities are inadequate and people are without safe drinking water. This is debilitating people physically and economically,” he said.

Political observers also said the PML-N is faced with internal rifts, and former MPA Shahwaiz Khan has distanced himself from the party’s campaigning drive and has not attended a single public meeting or arranged an election drive after the party ticket was awarded to Asif Ali Malik.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2018