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HASSANABDAL: The race for Hassanabdal’s only National Assembly seat is shaping up to be a close one, with eight candidates in the running to win over as many of the constituency’s 571,804 registered voters as they can.

The candidates include former Attock district nazim retired Maj Tahir Sadiq from the PTI, former minister for parliamentary affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad from the PML-N, PPP candidate Zulfiqar Hayat, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek candidate Asif Iqbal, PTI Nazriati candidate Taimoor Aslam, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal candidate Hafiz Saeed Ahmed, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan candidate Mohammad Hafeezullah Jan and Pakistan Human Rights Party candidate Malik Mir Afzal.

Mr Sadiq was previously associated with the PML-Q and joined the PTI last year. He is considered a strong candidate, with grassroots contacts and strong teams at the union council level who has also claimed to have carried out development work and provided thousands of jobs to young people. I travel hundreds of miles every day to contact my people directly, he said.

His opponent from the PML-N, Mr Ahmad has been associated with the PML-N for decades and has been loyal to the party through thick and thin.

During his tenure in government as a state and federal minister, he has carried out development work in his constituency and claims to have provided gas to all the villages in Attock and Hazro tehsil, carpeted roads, established an agriculture university in Attock and started masters’ classes at a boys’ college. The PML-N government also claimed to have recruited thousands of teachers on merit.

Mr Ahmad, who has been in power for 10 years and has thousands of supporters in the area has been running his campaign with high hopes, even though some of his party office-bearers at the tehsil level have joined other parties or are supporting other candidates, which has created problems for him.

At the same time, Mr Sadiq’s position has been strengthened with the withdrawal of Malik Amin Aslam, a former independent candidate who has been associated with the PTI for 10 years and looked after the Billion Tree Tsunami project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The former environment minister had also filed his nomination papers for NA-55, and was forced by supporters to run as an independent after he was passed over for the PTI ticket. He later withdrew his nomination papers but told the press he would not participate in Mr Sadiq’s campaign.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2018