This photo combo shows (from L to R): Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Gohar Ali Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman. — File photos

Big guns taking no chances on February 8

In an effort to ensure that no embarrassment befalls top-tier leaders, the heads of almost all major parties are contesting elections on multiple seats.
Published January 15, 2024

• Heads of various political parties pick mostly ‘safe seats’ to avoid embarrassment on polling day
• Interesting contests on the cards in Lahore as Yasmin set to take on Nawaz, Atta Tarar challenges Bilawal
• BNP-M chief set to battle bitter rival Shafiq Mengal in Wadh, Ghafoor Haideri in Kalat and Sanaullah Zehri in Khuzdar

AFTER months of uncertainty, the fog of confusion seems to be lifting from the election process as pre-poll activity finally picks up steam, following the dramatic events of the past weekend.

Pieces of the electoral puzzle have now started falling into place, revealing a much clearer picture of the candidates, their platforms and the issues at hand.

Though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is yet to come out with an exhaustive list of candidates, Dawn has collected data from constituencies where political notables and heads of various parties will be vying for victory, come the eighth of February.

Facing disqualification due to his conviction in the Toshakhana case, founding chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan will be watching all happenings from behind bars, as the heads of rival parties battle it out in the field.

It will no doubt be painful for Mr Khan to see his archrival Nawaz Sharif back in the field after a decade of obscurity and self-exile.

Besides Mr Khan, the head of his own faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, as well as veteran politician and Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, are two other senior party heads who are not in the run this time around, apparently due to health concerns.

A bird’s eye view of constituencies where party heads and some key political personalities will be contesting the elections is presented below, as well as an account of those areas that may witness a tough fight due to stiff competition from tough rivals.

This time, all major political parties are contesting the polls without any formal alliance, and in many constituencies party heads will face powerful rivals that may have the potential to stage upsets.

But in an effort to ensure that no embarrassment befalls top-tier leaders, the heads of almost all major parties are contesting elections on multiple seats, ostensibly in a bid to prove their popularity.

But somewhere in the back of their minds, there definitely lurks the possibility of a poor showing, and steps have apparently been taken to ensure that they do not get left out of the electoral milieu.

Then there are the family members of party heads, who are also in the hunt for seats, a clear indication that this election will feature a host of candidates that will further cement the political dynasties that comprise the country’s political elite.


 Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif

Supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, party president Shehbaz Sharif, are both contesting from two constituencies each.

The elder Sharif, who could not take part in the 2018 elections due to his conviction in the Panama Papers case, is back in the election arena after getting a clean chit from the courts. He is in the running for two National Assembly seats from strongholds in Lahore (NA-130) and Mansehra (NA-15).

Political experts believe that despite having what many perceive to be behind-the-scenes support from the powers to be, it may not be all smooth sailing for Mr Sharif, due to the PTI factor.

In Lahore, he will be facing former Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid, who doesn’t any introduction or electoral symbol for the sake of recognition among PTI voters. In Mansehra, the elder Sharif will face Gustasif Khan of the PTI and JUI-F’s Mufti Kifayatullah.

His brother on the other hand is contesting from NA-123 Lahore and NA-132 Kasur. The younger Sharif sibling will be facing a lawyer, Afzaal Azeem of the PTI, and Liaqat Baloch, an old campaigner from the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has fielded a lesser known commodity, Muhammad Ziaul Haq from the constituency (no relation to his namesake military ruler, though).

In Kasur, Mr Sharif’s rival candidates are Muhammad Ali Dogar of the PTI and Shaheen Safdar of the PPP.

Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz, is contesting the elections for the first time this year. She has filed papers from NA-119 Lahore, where she will be facing Mian Abaad Farooque of the PTI and Iftikhar Shahid of the PPP.

Similarly, Hamza Shehbaz, the short-lived former Punjab chief minister and Shehbaz Sharif’s son, is also in the run for NA-118 (Lahore), where he will be up against vocal PTI leader and former parliamentary secretary Aliya Hamza, Mohammad Afzal Khan of the JUI-F and Shahid Abbas of the PPP.

Both Maryam and Hamza are also contesting on provincial assembly seats from Lahore and perhaps both will be eying the chief ministership of the country’s largest province.


 Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is contesting the elections from three NA constituencies. Besides contesting on two NA seats from his home province, Mr Bhutto-Zardari has also submitted his papers from NA-127 Lahore, where he will be facing PML-N’s firebrand Ataullah Tarar and Chaudhry Shabbir Gujjar of the PTI.

The young PPP chief is contesting from his native Larkana (NA-194) and Qambar Shahdadkot (NA-196). In Larkana, he will be facing Maulana Rashid Mahmood Soomro of the JUI-F and PTI Senator Saifullah Abro, whereas Habibullah of the PTI will be challenging him in NA-196.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari is also contesting the election from the same native constituency of Shaheed Benazirabad, which he won back in the 2018 elections. Before this, his sister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho had won this seat in all three elections held in 2002, 2008 and 2013. Here, Mr Zardari will face Sardar Sher Muhammad Rind Baloch of the PTI.

JUI-F and JI

 Fazlur Rehman
Fazlur Rehman

The head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman is vying for two NA seats – NA-44 Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and NA-265 Pishin-cum-Ziarat in Balochistan.

The JUI-F chief, who is the only party head to be vocally demanding a delay in the elections, is expected to witness stiff competition in both constituencies. In DI Khan, he will be facing the hirsute and aggressive Ali Amin Gandapur of the PTI, and former NA deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi of the PPP.

In Pishin, meanwhile, his rivals include Syed Zahoor Agha of the PTI.

This will be the first time the JUI-F chief is contesting elections from outside his home province of KP and he has selected the relatively safe seat of Pishin, which the party has been winning since 2002.

JI chief Sirajul Haq is contesting the election on NA-6 Lower Dir where he will be contesting against Bashir Khan of the PTI and Mohammad Sher Khan (JUI-F).


The beleaguered PTI is contesting the election without the captaincy of Imran Khan. After losing the iconic ‘bat’ symbol, all its candidates are contesting as independents. The party’s erstwhile chairman, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, is running for the NA seat from Buner (NA-10). His main rival there is Sher Akbar Khan, who had won this seat in 2013 on a JI ticket and in 2018 on a PTI ticket. This time, Sher Akbar Khan holds the ticket of PTI-Parliamentarians, a breakaway faction headed by former KP chief minister Pervez Khattak.

Barrister Gohar Ali Khan had contested the 2008 elections from the same constituency on a PPP ticket, but lost to ANP’s Abdul Matin Khan with a thin margin of less than 3,000 votes. Waliur Rehman of the JUI-F is also in the race in the same constituency.

Another lawyer, Sher Afzal Marwat of the PTI, is contesting the NA seat from Lakki Marwat (NA-41). He will be up against Asjad Mehmood, a son of Maulana Fazlur Rahman.


The urban Sindh-based MQM-Pakistan, which faced a major setback in the 2018 elections, is taking part in these elections after its ‘marriage of convenience’ with the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) of Mustafa Kamal.

Party convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui is contesting elections from Karachi’s NA-248 constituency, where his main rivals are Arsalan Khalid, one of the leading lights of PTI’s social media team, and Mohammad Hassan Khan of the PPP.

Former party chief Dr Farooq Sattar is trying his luck from two constituencies — NA-241 and NA-244.

In NA-241, his opponents include Khurram Sher Zaman of the PTI and Mirza Ikhtiyar Baig of the PPP, whereas in NA-244, he will be against former PTI MNA Aftab Jahangir.

An interesting contest is also expected in NA-242 (Karachi), where Mustafa Kamal will be squaring off against PPP’s Abdul Qadir Mandokhel.

New parties

 Jahangir Khan Tareen
Jahangir Khan Tareen

The Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) and PTI-P are the two new parties on the scene, comprising mostly PTI defectors.

IPP president Aleem Khan is contesting from NA-117 Lahore, whereas another key IPP leader Jahangir Tareen is vying for two NA seats — NA-149 Multan and NA-155 Lodhran.

Aleem Khan will be facing Ali Ijaz Buttar of the PTI and PPP’s Asif Hashmi. The PML-N, thanks to a seat adjustment, has withdrawn its candidate against Mr Khan.

On the other hand, Mr Tareen is expected to have a tough fight with PTI’s Malik Aamir Dogar in Multan. The PML-N has withdrawn its candidate in favour of Mr Tareen in Lahore but in Lodhran, its candidate Siddique Baloch will continue to challenge him. The PTI has also pitched Pir Iqbal Shah against Mr Tareen, who was once considered a close confidant of Imran Khan.

PTI-P chief Pervez Khattak, meanwhile is contesting elections for a provincial assembly seat (PK-87) from Nowshera. His main opponents are PTI’s Khalilur Rehman and Liaquat Khan of the JUI-F.

Parties in Balochistan

Pashtunkwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai had filed his nomination papers from three NA constituencies in Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah. Later, however, Mr Achakzai withdrew from NA-265 Pishin in favour of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Interestingly, JUI-F’s Mufti Rozi Khan also withdrew from the race in NA-263 Quetta, but the party is supporting the independent Haji Lashkari Raisani against Mr Achakzai.

Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-Mengal) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal is also in the race for the NA-263 Quetta seat.

Mr Mengal is also contesting from NA-256 Khuzdar and NA-261 Kallat and in both these constituencies, he will be facing political heavyweights. In Kalat, he will be competing against Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F and in Khuzdar, his main contest will be with Sanaullah Zehri of the PPP.

Besides this, Mr Mengal is also vying for a provincial assembly seat in his native Wadh, where he will be facing his bitter rival Shafiq Mengal, son of former federal minister Naseer Mengal, with whom he has been involved in a bloody dispute.

President of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Khalid Magsi is contesting from NA-254 Jhal Magsi-cum-Kachi-cum-Nasirabad. His main rival is Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind, who is tribal chief of the Rind tribe. Sardar Rind had parted ways with the PTI and is now contesting as an independent candidate.

National Party (NP) chief Abdul Malik will also be vying for the NA-259 seat from Turbat, where his main rival is Malik Shah Gorgaj of the PPP.

All quiet on the Sindh front

Unlike other parts of the country, Sindh is unlikely to witness any major contests between heavyweights in the upcoming as none of the senior leaders of different parties are competing against each other.

Only one NA seat — NA-194 (Larkana-Ratodero) — is expected to see much as, since it will feature a contest between Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and JUI-F General Secretary Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro. But the contest, although significant, will see the young PPP scion have history on his side, as the constituency is located in the hometown of his grandfather, PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

In Karachi, senior leaders of different parties are contesting the Feb 8 elections but in most of their respective constituencies, they only face second or third tier leaders of rival parties. After the withdrawal of nomination papers by PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif from NA-242, the Feb 8 elections don’t seem to hold any high voltage electoral battles in Karachi, either.

After the rejection of the nomination papers of GDA’s Dr Zulfikar Mirza and his wife Dr Fehmida Mirza, the chances of a close contest in Badin with PPP candidates also seem slim.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta and Imran Ayub in Karachi also contributed to his report

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2024

Header image: This photo combo shows (from L to R): Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Gohar Ali Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman. — File photos