TAXILA: NA-63 (Rawalpindi VII) is humming with activity as the PTI and PML-N campaign for the upcoming by-election in this constituency, where the main contest is expected between the PTI and the PML-N following the withdrawal of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal candidate Khawaja Waqar Khan.

Five candidates are contesting the Oct 10 election, including PTI’s Masoor Hayat Khan – the son of Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Barrister Malik Aqeel from the PML-N, Qurban Ali from Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, Syed Ishrat Zaidi from the PPP and independent candidate Syed Haider Ali Shah.

The constituency consists of the semi-hilly and plain areas of Taxila and Wah, with eight union councils from Taxila city along with rural areas such as Dhumial, where family affiliations affect voter decisions. The constituency has 370,938 registered voters – 195,223 men and 175,715 women.

Mr Khan from the PTI appears to be the clear forerunner in this election, while arch-rival PML-N seems low on political morale.

Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has distanced himself from the by-election; he did not file nomination papers for the seat and has not been campaigning for the PML-N candidate, who is the nephew of his close political aide and former MPA Umer Farooq.

During the July 25 elections, Chaudhry Nisar contested two national and provincial constituencies in the Rawalpindi district as an independent, after he became estranged from the PML-N, and won a Punjab Assembly seat.

He has chosen not to take oath as a provincial lawmaker, although there is no time restriction for doing so under the law.

The by-election appears to be tilted in the PTI candidate’s favour. Mr Khan’s father, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, is already serving as the petroleum minister while Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s nephew was elected to the Punjab Assembly on July 25.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018

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