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MURREE: NA-57, one of Punjab’s largest constituencies, is likely to see a tight race between the PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been the PML-N candidate in NA-57 since 1988 and has only lost an election once, in 2002, to a PPP candidate. This time, however, even if he does win the constituency it will likely be with a small margin.

NA-57 is one of the largest constituencies in the province, both in terms of population and geographically – it comprises areas in five out of eight towns of the Rawalpindi district. The constituency includes Murree, Kotli Sattian, Kahuta, Kallar Syedan and some union councils of Gujar Khan town. There are around 590,000 registered voters in NA-57.

The remaining four towns of Rawalpindi district are divided into six National Assembly constituencies.

NA-57 has two provincial assembly seats: PP-6, which includes Murree and Kotli Sattian, and PP-7, which includes Kahuta and Kallar Syedan.

Ghulam Murtaza Satti, who defeated Mr Abbasi in 2002, joined the PTI a year ago and was expected to be the PTI’s candidate in NA-57. However, he was awarded a ticket for PP-7, while Sadaqat Abbasi received PTI’s ticket to run against Mr Abbasi.

PTI has given its PP-6 ticket to retired Maj Latasab Satti from Kotli Sattian and its NA-57 ticket to Sadaqat Abbasi from Murree, while the PML-N awarded its tickets to candidates from Murree which has led to resentment in the Satti belt.

The PML-N has awarded Raja Mohammad Ali, son of PML-N chairman Raja Mohammad Zafarul Haq, a ticket for PP-7. However, a strong candidate, PML-N dissident Raja Mohammad Fagheer, is also contesting as an independent.

PML-N’s candidate for PP-6 Raja Ishfaq Sarwar was Punjab’s labour and manpower minister. He has faced resistance in various areas from workers of his own party, including Murree’s Ghehl union council, Kotli Bazaar, Lehtrar union council and the Santh Saroola union council.

Mr Abbasi also faced similar resistance while campaigning in Kohati Kakrai, where people said he had not launched any mega-projects in his constituency during his tenure as prime minister or fulfilled his electoral promises.

Wajid Satti, an influential figure from Malot Sattian, was of the view that Mr Abbasi had managed to control the damage while visiting his constituency and would be in a better position because of his personal struggle in the area, but the PML-N would not be able to win a provincial assembly seat.

Murree resident Javed Abbasi said the PTI has launched an effective campaign in the constituency and controlled party rifts over the award tickets. He said that while the PML-N is in a better position to win the National Assembly seat, the PTI was in a better place for the provincial assembly.

The PPP has awarded its National Assembly ticket to former state minister in the Gilani government Mehreen Anwar Raja, who is from Kahuta, while its provincial assembly candidate is Murree Town’s Sajjad Hanif Abbasi.

Javed Akhtar Abbasi is the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan candidate for NA-57, while Munir Satti is contesting a provincial assembly seat. Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal has supported Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the National Assembly seat, but is fielding its own candidate Sajjad Abbasi on a provincial assembly seat.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2018