OKARA, Oct 1: Using the slogan of party discipline, the ruling PML has virtually made the third and final phase of the election in Okara a one-man show by making all potential contenders step back one by one.
The overall situation emerging in Punjab reveals that in every contest there is one (albeit the ruling party) winner.
As for the development in Okara, PPP District President Muhammad Ashraf Khan Sohna, an MPA, is the only candidate left for the district nazim office against PML nominee Syed Asad Ali Gillani of the Shah Muqeem group.
The other four candidates had already withdrawn their papers because of the pressure built up by Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi.
The local election activities gained momentum when Federal Defence Minister Rao Sikandar Iqbal joined hands with former chief minister Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, former district nazim Syed Sajjad Haider, MNA Rai Muhammad Aslam Kharal and former MPAs — Rai Noor Muhammad Kharal, Chaudhry Muhammad Arif and Chaudhry Ikramul Haq — to field their candidates against the Shah Muqeem group’s for the district and tehsil nazim slots.
The Shah Muqeem group emerged as the single largest group in the post-election (first phase) scenario and Manzoor Wattoo-led Taamir-i-Watan group ranked next to it.
Inspired by the unexpected performance, Mr Wattoo gave a serious thought to field his nominee for the district nazim slot and, accordingly, started campaign for his son, Mian Khurram Jehangir Wattoo. He held several meetings with the PML high-ups, including its president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and National Security Council Secretary Tariq Aziz, to get his son nominated for the district nazim office.
However as all his efforts proved futile, he started contacting other notable politicians of the district and eventually joined hands with Rao Sikandar Iqbal, who was already wanting his brother to be the man for the district nazim office. Rao Sikandar declared his son Rao Atif Sikandar, a nzim-elect, a candidate for the district nazim slot.
Seeing the development, the provincial government intervened and Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi held two meetings with Rao Sikandar and Mr Wattoo in a day. The very next day the two keen politicians announced withdrawal of their candidate for the Okara district nazim slot, saying “we have sacrificed the position despite having a clear majority only to honour the party discipline.” The incentive the chief minister gave them was that the minister’s son was nominated district naib nazim and his cousin, Rao Jamil Akhtar, Okara tehsil nazim. Khurram Wattoo was named Deepalpur tehsil nazim. Interestingly, Khurram was considered to be in a commanding position even if there had been a contest.
For Okara tehsil, eight candidates, including MMA District President Dr Liaquat Ali Kausar, former MPA Chaudhry Muhammad Arif and four-time MPA Rai Noor Muhammad Kharal had filed their papers. Among them Chaudhry Arif and Rai Noor Kharal were in a position to contest the election for tehsil nazim slot, but then it was the government which had built pressure and allowed Rao Sikandar Iqbal and Mr Wattoo to make them withdraw.
Consequently, PML-backed candidate Rao Jamil Akthar had been unofficially elected unopposed.
In Renala Khurd tehsil, the family of former MPA Chaudhry Ziauddin, his brother Chaudhry Waheeduddin, also a former tehsil nazim, and his son Chaudhry Javed Alauddin (an MPA) has refused to withdraw the candidature of Bilal Ziauddin against the government-supported Malik Muhammad Akram Bhatti, an ex-MPA.
The Punjab government had earlier declared Malik Akram tehsil nazim candidate, but after a week the pressure was built up by the Ziauddin family to come to the fore. However, as the government has the last laugh in every matter, Ziauddin’s family was forced to withdraw its nominee and Malik Akram was once again assured of the crown by a chief minister’s crony, who has no liking for the Ziauddin family.
Bilal Zia, however, continues to campaign for his election despite the fact that the Okara police are exerting pressure on him.
Meanwhile, the chief minister is expected to visit Okara before Oct 6 — the D-day — and the intent is more than obvious.
It is pertinent to mention that Mian Manzoor Wattoo was asked to withdraw on the assurance that either he would be made a senator or his daughter given the portfolio of state minister after the final phase of the elections.
Three-time MPA Malik Abbas Khokhar, who was replaced by Mian Manzoor Wattoo’s son for the Deepalpur tehsil nazim slot, was promised to be made an adviser to the chief minister.