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Rao, Wattoo withdraw amid cries of foul play

September 16, 2005

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OKARA, Sept 15: After prolonged resistance Defence Minister Rao Sikander Iqbal has withdrawn the candidature of his son Atif Sikander Rao for the district nazim slot in the wake of a meeting with PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in Lahore on Thursday.

It has been learnt that Mr Rao had refused to withdraw his son’s candidature for the slot at a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi held late on Wednesday night. . Flanked by former chief minister Mian Manzoor Wattoo, the defence minister on Thursday evening told a gathering of elected nazims, naib-nazims and councillors that the PML leadership had decided that the ruling party members would not field district nazim candidates against each other’s in the province. Mr Rao added that despite having a majority in the district he was declaring to withdraw his son’s candidature for the slot following the party line.

Mr Rao said President Gen Pervez Musharraf was his personal friend and he did not want to create difficulties for him.

Mr Rao announced that Punjab chief minister has decided to back Syed Asad Ali Gillani for district nazim slot, Atif Sikander Rao for district naib-nazim, Rao Jamil Akhtar for Okara tehsil nazim and Khurram Jehangir Watto for Deepalpur tehsil nazim, as desired by Gen Musharraf.

Manzoor Watto said on the occasion he was still ready to stand for the rights of the district’s people. He said in the past he had spent three years behind the bars for opposing the then prime minister.

He said if Rao Sikander was ready to face the situation, he was ready to shoulder him at any cost.

Mr Rao had to face the wrath of the elected representatives when he announced the withdrawal decision.

Most of the elected people said they did not accept any imposed decision by the Punjab government.

The gathering demanded that Rao Sikander must withdraw the candidature of his son and cousin and so must be done by Mian Manzoor Ahmad Watto.

Reacting to the decision, the allies of Mr Rao and Mr Watto, including former district nazim Syed Sajjad Haider, former MNA Rao Qaiser Ali Khan, former MPAs Rai Noor Muhammad Kharl, Chaudhry Muhammad Arif, Chaudhry Ikram-ul-Haq and Syed Samsam Ali Shah Bokhari, caretaker of Hazrat Karmanwala shrine, bitterly criticized the two leaders. They said that Mr Wattoo and Mr Rao had got accommodated their sons and cousin but “assassinated” their allies politically.

Our Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Defence Minister Rao Sikander Iqbal and former chief minister Mazoor Wattoo say their groups are withdrawing from the Okara district nazim race “just for their parties’ sake.”

“This step will definitely affect my political career in my home district but I’m giving in to top leadership’s will,” a visibly annoyed defence minister told a news conference in the presence of Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi on Thursday night.

The news conference was organized after the return of Rao and Wattoo from Okara where they explained their position to their local allies earlier in the day.

Rao said he was not satisfied with PPP-Patriots share in nazims’ slots in the Punjab.

Wattoo also echoed Rao’s sentiments and said the nominations were hurting the PML. The two nevertheless announced full support for Asad Gilani, official nominee for district nazim.