SARGODHA: The PML-N is in trouble in almost all constituencies of the Sargodha district due to internal rifts and the local leaders have not yet made arrangements for holding a public meeting scheduled for Feb 6 despite the directions of the central leadership of the party.

Sources said the PML-N central leadership wanted to hold a rally in Sargodha on Feb 3 to gear up its election campaign but later postponed it for Feb 6 due to the differences in the local cadre of the party and its candidates. The local leadership has refused to make arrangements for the rally even on Feb 6, which looks unlikely now, they say.

In NA-82 Sargodha I, PML-N candidate Dr Mukhtar Ahmad is facing lack of support of his party’s old groups, including Pir Ameenul Hasnat and Adnan Hayat Noon who were elected MNA from this constituency on the ticket of the PML-N in 2013 and 1998, respectively.

This time, both Pir Hasnat and Noon have decided to support the PPP’s Nadeem Afzal Gondal in the constituency. Although JUI-F candidate, Rao Abdul Qayyum, has surrendered in favour of the PML-N nominee, he has little influence in this constituency compared to the Pir and Noon families.

Haroon Ehsan Piracha of the PTI is in the field as an independent but after the recent development, there is little chance of his victory.

Fissures within the party may benefit PPP and PTI-backed candidates

A tough contest is expected on the provincial assembly seats in Sargodha-I. In the PP-71, Sohaib Ahmad Malik of the PML-N, Naeem Ijaz Panjutha, the PTI-backed independent candidate, and the PPP’s Pir Farooq Bahaul Haq, the younger brother of Pir Ameenul Hasnat, are expected to have a close fight while in PP-72, Mansoor Ahmad (PML-N), Iqbal Ghauri (PPP) and Sohail Gujjar (PTI-backed independent) are also going to have a tough contest.

There is a similar situation in NA-83 as there is lack of coordination between PML-N candidate for the National Assembly, Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha, and Mian Ikram, contesting election on PP-74. The lack of coordination between the PML-N candidates may benefit Usama Mela, the PTI-backed independent candidate.

In NA-84, the PML-N has fielded Dr Liaqat Ali Khan as its candidate but the staunch followers of the party are supporting the PPP’s Tasneem Ahmad Qureshi. In the constituency, the party did not give a ticket to Chaudhry Hamid Hameed who got offended and announced his support for Tasneem Qureshi.

In NA-86 Sargodha 5, the PML-N candidate Javed Husnain Shah and the party’s ticketholder for PP-80 Asim Sher Mekan are face to face against each other as the former is running his campaign with an independent candidate, Gul Muhammad Shah, having the election symbol of Hookah, against Mekan. On the other hand, Mekan is asking for votes for Miqdad Baloch, a PTI-backed independent candidate for the National Assembly.

In view of the prevalent circumstances, the victory of independent candidates, sponsored by the PTI, is more probable as they are in a better position due to the fissures in the PML-N. The Pir of Sial Sharif also called upon his followers to support PTI nominees, Miqdad Khan Baloch in NA-86, Ghulam Ali Asghar Lahri in PP-79 and Iftikhar Hussain Gondal in PP-80.

All the factors mentioned above have created confusion for the PML-N voters which would harm the party’s interests in the election.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2024

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