Islamabad set to be ‘uphill battle’ for major political parties

Electioneering in Islamabad has so far not kicked off, especially by mainstream political parties, making it difficult for the people to whom they should vote.
Published January 28, 2024

 Data compiled by DawnGIS
Data compiled by DawnGIS

Three seats of the National Assembly in the federal capital are up for grabs as none of the mainstream political parties appears to be in a position to clinch a majority here in the Feb 8 general elections.

Uncertainty prevails in the capital about the success of three mainstream political parties—PML-N, PTI and PPP due to their internal rifts, ‘promoting the hereditary politics’, fielding of apolitical figures and trusting alr­eady tested/defeated candidates.

On the other hand, it has been observed that due to unprecedented food inflation, high rocketing gas and electricity bills, rent of houses and unaffordable school/college fees for their children, people in the city have so far disassociated themselves from the elections as they believed that elite class has made elections a source of power politics just to satisfy their designs and not to address people’s problems.

Electioneering in Islamabad has so far not kicked off, especially by mainstream political parties, making it difficult for the people to whom they should vote.

According to a list issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), about 180 candidates are in the run from the three constituencies, including independents and those associated with different parties.

Internal rifts between the candidates in major parties have surfaced as more than one candidate from these parties had filed their nomination papers for one seat. Although after the awarding of party tickets, other candidates have withdrawn their nomination papers, their supporters have split, and this may provide room for independent candidates like Mustafa Nawaz Khokar and others to clinch the NA seat.

Some of the prominent candidates contesting the elections in three NA seats in Islamabad include Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar (independent), Anj­um Aqeel Khan, Tariq Fazal Chau­d­hry of PML-N; Sibtul Haider Bukh­ari, Raja Imran Ashraf and Chaudhry Asad of PPP, Mian Muhammad Asl­am of Jamat-i-Islami, Shoaib Shah­e­­en, Ali Bukhari and Amir Mughal of PTI and Khurram Nawaz, a candidate of Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP).

PTI’s past stronghold

The federal capital became a stronghold of PTI after the 2018 polls because of its clean sweep in all three seats, but interestingly three former MNAs of PTI who had won 2018 elections from three seats of the capital—Asad Umar (from NA-46), Ali Nawaz Awan (from NA-47 and Raja Khurram Nawaz (from NA-48) are not contesting upcoming polls on for the party’s platform.

Two of them—Asad Umar and Ali Nawaz have been replaced by new PTI faces (for 2024 elections) as Amir Mughal is contesting from Asad Umar’s seat, NA-46, and Ali Bukhari is from NA-47, from where Ali Nawaz had won. PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen is contesting from NA-48. Raja Khurram Nawaz is still in the run from NA-48 but on the PTI ticket. He is a candidate of IPP.

Locals believe the selection of new faces might cause a setback to the PTI; therefore, the stronghold is slipping out of its hands.

Many voters contacted by Dawn believed that PTI would not be able to regain all three seats of the NA because unpopular and new faces are contesting polls from its platform, who lack previous experience in local politics and the baradri (clans) in the capital.

Setback for PML-N

PML-N candidates had recently met a setback when their leadership made a seat adjustment agreement with the newly formed Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP), mainly comprising disgruntled leaders of PTI. Under the reported agreement, IPP leader Amir Kiani was to contest as a joint candidate of both parties from NA-47. Therefore, PML-N candidate Tariq Fazal Chaudhry had to cede his stronghold and was compelled to contest elections from NA-48, where he had faced defeat in the 2018 polls when he stood in the third position in terms of the number of secured votes against PTI winner Khurram Shahzad Nawaz.

Given the unconducive situation, Mr Chaudhary recently met Nawaz Sharif and requested him to change the constituency of Amir Kiani from NA-47 to NA-48 as he (Mr Chaudhary) wanted to take part in the polls from his stronghold NA-47. On this, PML-N agreed and awarded a party ticket from NA-47 to Tariq Fazal. This may cause some inconvenience to Amir Kiani, who refused to contest from NA-48, and the IPP declared Khurram Nawaz as its candidate from NA-48. Following this development, PML-N is not fielding its candidate from NA-48, and Khurram Nawaz is being considered as a joint candidate of the two parties.

Interestingly, the PML-N has recently issued a list of candidates for NA seats in which there was no mention of Anjum Aqeel as a candidate from NA-46. Rather, the name of another PML-N aspirant, Zeeshan Ali Naqvi, was on top of the list, being the party candidate from NA-46. However, a notification issued on the following day carried only two names, Anjum Aqeel Khan and Mr Chaudhry.

On the other hand, Anjum Aqeel Khan had lost two consecutive general elections on this seat and one local government election.

Observers believe Zeeshan Naqvi had better prospects to win the election due to his “personal relations not only within the party ranks and voters in his constituency but also with those in the opposition”. But the party did not choose him for the seat.

PPP’s hereditary politics

For the three National Assembly seats in Islamabad, the PPP chapter in the federal capital has been accused of promoting ‘hereditary politics’ amid disagreements within the former ruling party over the award of party tickets to nominees vying for NA-46, NA-47 and NA-48 on the PPP platform.

For NA-47, Raja Imran Ashraf, the younger brother of NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, has been chosen, and Sibtul Haider, the younger brother of PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyar Bukhari, was awarded a ticket for NA-47. Both candidates had lost the previous election in 2018.

Sources in the PPP said Mr Bukhari and Mr Ashraf, the PPP Punjab president, also played a crucial role in picking party candidates in the federal capital.

Public issues

Like many other parts of the country, the capital also has many problems, such as the need for a local government system, the absence of a landfill site and proper waste disposal system and a central jail. There is currently a ban on new gas connections, land grabbing is rife, while the unequal distribution of funds by Capital Development Authority and other local authorities continues to afflict the provision of services in many areas. There is also a need for more schools, hospitals, housing, and public transport facilities due to the increasing population.

According to former senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the lack of a proper LG system in Islamabad was one of the reasons for poor civic services in the more remote parts of the capital. He said the unequal distribution of funds by the CDA in urban and remote areas should be checked.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2024

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