(L to R) Ex-ministers PPP’s Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, PML-N’s Mehmood Basheer Virk and Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan. — Facebook/NA website/File

Five ex-ministers fielded by parties for Gujranwala’s NA seats

Main contest is expected between nominees of PML-N and PTI on all 5 NA and 12 Punjab Assembly seats in the district.
Published February 1, 2024

GUJRAT: At least five former federal ministers are vying for different National Assembly (NA) constituencies of Gujranwala from the platforms of the PML-N, the PPP and the IPP (Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party).

However, the main contest is expected between the nominees of the PML-N and the PTI on all the five NA and 12 Punjab Assembly (PA) seats of the district.

With a population of nearly six million people, Gujranwala district is the regional headquarters of at least seven districts of the central Punjab, which have been politically dominated by the PML-N over the last three decades.

Though Imran Khan’s PTI could so far not gain any breakthrough in the electoral battles in Gujranwala, the party has emerged as the main contender against the PML-N over the last decade.

The former federal ministers, Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan, Mehmood Basheer Virk and Usman Ibrahim of the PML-N, Imtiaz Safdar Warraich of the PPP and Rana Nazeer Ahmed Khan of the IPP, are in the race from different seats in the district.

The PML-N stalwart Khurram Dastgir, a two-time federal minister, has again been nominated from NA-78, the city constituency he has been winning in three consecutive elections (2008 to 2018). He stood third in 2002 in the constituency, from where his father Ghulam Dastgir Khan had been winning many times since 1970.

The PTI has fielded a new face, Mubeen Arif Jutt, a local industrialist, in NA-78 after its previous ticket holder, Mehr Siddique, left the party in the wake of May 9 riots.

PPP’s Haris Meeran Gujjar, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) Kamran Aulakh, Jamat-i-Isalmi’s Hafiz Hameedudin Awan, Mustafa Jajja of Markazi Muslim League and some independents are also in the race for NA-78. However, the main contest is expected between the nominees of PML-N and PTI on this seat.

Talking to Dawn, PTI aspirant Mobeen Arif said that despite being the regional headquarters and an industrial hub, the city was lagging behind in higher education sector as compared to the other districts like Gujrat, Narowal and Sialkot, where public universities have been established during the last two decades.

He says the people of Gujranwala had been fed up with the old faces and want a change due to the “poor performance” of the PML-N government. The district also lacks basic facilities, he adds.

However, ex MPA Imran Khalid Butt, a PML-N nominee from city’s PP-61 constituency, say that a sub-campus of Punjab University (PU) had been functioning in the city for the more than 25 years, whereas the government has already announced the establishment of “University of Gujranwala” for which a piece of land was allocated, besides initially required funds.

He says the PML-N government had also established Gujranwala Medical College, as well as a state-of-the-art 500-bed teaching hospital at a cost of Rs7 billion. The city has also been given an expressway to link it with the Lahore-Sialkot motorway (LSM), besides two flyovers, he adds.

In NA-77, PML-N’s Mehmood Basheer Virk, a four-times MNA, is contesting against ex-MNA Imtiaz Safdar Warraich of PPP and Rashida Tariq, the wife of ex-MNA Mian Tariq Mehmood, of the PTI.

In NA-79 (Kamoke) ex-MNA Zulfiqar Bhinder has again been fielded by PML-N against former federal minister Rana Nazeer Ahmed Khan of IPP, Ehsanullah Virk of PTI and independent Rana Sajid Shaukat, besides some others.

In NA-80 ex-MNA Barrister Usman Ibrahim’s son Shahid Usman is a PML-N nominee against Lala Asadullah Papa of PTI, whereas in NA-81 ex-MNA Azhar Qayyum Nahra of PML-N is facing ex-MNA Rana Bilal Ijaz of PTI.

In PP-65, The PML-N had awarded ticket to its previously winning MPA Haji Waqar Cheema, but he opted for contesting the election as an independent candidate. He was replaced by the party with ex-MPA Pir Ghulam Fareed. In PP-64, a newcomer, Aamir Dar, is the PML-N candidate and ex-MPA Ashraf Ansari, who had ditched the party a few years ago, was not considered for the ticket.

On the rest of the 10 PA seats of Gujranwala, the PML-N has almost repeated its former ticket holders as its candidates, whereas the PTI has changed its nominees on several seats.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2024

Header image: (L to R) Ex-ministers PPP’s Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, PML-N’s Mehmood Basheer Virk and Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan. — Facebook/NA website/File

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