TOBA TEK SINGH: By-election is being held on three Punjab Assembly seats in Faisalabad division -- one in Faisalabad district and two in Jhang district.

There were four PTI defector MPAs from Faisalabad division who voted for chief minister election to Hamza Shehbaz but three of them were deseated -- Faisalabad PP-97 MPA Haji Ajmal Cheema, Jhang PP-125 MPA Faisal Hayat Jabboana and Jhang PP-127 MPA Mehr Muhammad Aslam Bharwana.

The fourth defector was Toba Tek Singh PP-118 MPA Bilal Asghar Warraich who escaped deseating because he had won the by-election held after the 2018 general elections. Like three other deseated MPAs, he had also won as an independent candidate but despite joining the PTI he was not enrolled as party member due to which he not only exists as an MPA but presently also enjoying the portfolio of a provincial minister.

In the by-election to be held on July 17, the same winners and runners-up of the 2018 general election are again main contestants.

In all three constituencies, PTI candidates blame the PML-N for using state machinery and funds for its candidates, however, the Nawaz League leadership refutes their allegations.

PP-97, Faisalabad: The constituency consists of two tehsils -- Chak Jhumra and Faisalabad.

A tough fight is expected between Haji Ajmal Cheema of the PML-N and Ali Afzal Sahi of the PTI as both belong to the same Jat clan.

In 2018, Haji Ajmal Cheema had secured 42,405 votes as an independent candidate while Ali Afzal Sahi remained runner up with 37,973 votes.

Azad Ali Tabassam, who was a PML-N candidate in 2018 and remained on third position with 35,141 votes, has now withdrawn his candidature in favour of Cheema.

Tariq Mahmood Bajwa was a PPP candidate in 2018 but managed 2,000 votes only. Now he is an independent candidate having some better position than 2018.

A new development is that Jamaat-i-Islami has now fielded its candidate, Ali Ahmad Goraya, who is the grandson (daughter’s son) of the late spiritual personality Sufi Barkat Ali and it is expected that he may affect PML-N vote bank.

Meanwhile, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz has no schedule to address a public meeting for her party candidate in PP-97, however, Imran Khan will address a gathering at Chak Jhumra on Friday (today).

Both the main contestants are hopeful of their win, but political observers opine that the PTI is in a slightly better position.

PP-125, Jhang: This constituency consists of entire Athara Hazari tehsil and some area of Jhang tehsil.

In the by-polls, PML-N’s Faisal Hayat Jabboana and PTI’s Mian Azam Chela are the main contestants.

In 2018, Jabboana had won this seat by getting 51,050 votes and joined the PTI. The runner-up was PTI’s Azam Chela who scored 38,699 votes. The PPP has not fielded its candidate this time.

Both Maryam and Imran had addressed big gatherings at Jhang and 18 Hazari.

This time a former PML-N MPA, Iftikhar Khan Baloch (father-in-law of Hina Rabbani Khar’s younger brother PPP MNA from Muzaffargarh Malik Ghulam Raza Rabbani Khar) is also an independent candidate.

All three of the contestants are former MPAs, elected on multiple occasions from this constituency or some areas falling in this constituency.

Azam Chela, Faisal Jabboana and Iftikhar Baloch have support of their clans.

Political observers say no doubt a real contest is between Azam Chela and Faisal Hayat Jabboana, but Iftikhar Baloch can also make a dent in the vote bank of the PML-N.

PP-127, Jhang: This constituency consists of the areas falling in the precincts of Mochiwala and Saddar police stations of Jhang.

Main contestants are the same of 2018 election including winner Mehr Aslam Bharwana (now PML-N candidate) and Mehr Nawaz Bharwana.

In 2018, Aslam Bharwana had obtained 27,353 votes as an independent candidate and runner-up Nawaz Bharwana had scored 26,765 votes on PTI ticket. The winning margin was of just 600 votes.

There is again a clash between traditional rivals -- Bharwanas of Satiana and Bharwanas of Mukhiana areas of Jhang.

After winning the 2018 election, Aslam Bharwana had joined the PTI and was made a minister in the Buzdar cabinet. Both of them remained members of the provincial assembly thrice each.

A large number of devotees of the shrines of Sial Sharif and Shah Jewna reside in this constituency.

Faisal Saleh Hayat, the caretaker (sajada nashin) of Shah Jewna, is supporting Aslam Bharwana while Pir Qasim Sialvi is with Nawaz Bharwana.

Rah-i-Haq party’s MPA Muawiya Azam is supporting Aslam Bharwana while a former federal minister Sheikh Waqas Akram who joined the PTI on Wednesday in the presence of Imran Khan in his Athara Hazari public meeting has also started supporting PTI hopeful Nawaz Bharwana in PP-127. He had already announced support to PTI’s Azam Chela in PP-125.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2022



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