SARGODHA: The recent changes in the delimitations of Khushab, though this district retained its two National Assembly (NA) constituencies, have increased the number of provincial seats from three to four.

In NA-87, the entire Quaidabad tehsil was excluded, while incorporating the municipal committee of Jauharabad town in Khushab tehsil, along with most villages, town committee Hadali, and Mitha Tiwana.

In NA-87, Shakir Bashir Awan of the PML-N is facing his old rivals, PTI’s Umar Aslam, and Sumera Malik, granddaughter of the Nawab of Kalabagh and wife of Malik Tahir Sarfraz Awan. Ms Malik left the PML-N after being denied a party ticket for elections, and although her husband Tahir Sarfraz Awan is also contesting from this constituency, she has internally allowed her supporters to support PTI’s Mr Aslam.

In 2013, Ms Malik, as a PML-N candidate, defeated Mr Aslam of the PTI with a margin of 40,000 votes. However, in the 2018 election, she lost against him with a deficit of 30,000 votes. Muhammad Ali Sanwal, cousin of Ms Aslam and Mr Sarfraz, is also contesting for the constituency as a PPP candidate who lost the previous election with just 23,400 votes.

It is worth mentioning that clan elder Malik Naeem Khan Awan had nominated Mr Aslam as his political successor during his lifetime, ignoring his other nephews - Mr Sarfraz and Mr Sanwal Khan. Since then, they oppose each other.

Shakir Bashir Awan, a PML-N nominee, and his family are benefiting from this situation, besides the active support of the candidate of PP-82 Malik Muhammad Asif, who has influence in the areas of Khushab Municipal Committee and Jauharabad. If he manages to mold his supporters in favor of Mr Awan, he may be in a position to win this seat. However, this time Mr Aslam, despite opposition from his family, including Mr Sarfraz and Mr Sanwal, has gained the support of the majority of Ms Malik’s supporters, and he is strengthening day by day. Moreover, Ms Malik wants to convey a clear message to party leadership that she has a stronghold in this constituency.

This constituency is under the control of the Awan tribe. Umar Aslam, Tahir Sarfraz, and Muhammad Ali Sanwal are the grandsons of Brigadier Sanwal Khan, who are involved in the business of coal mines.

Hassan Aslam Awan, younger brother of Mr Aslam, is contesting for PP-81 as a PTI candidate against Amir Haider Singha of the Istehkam Pakistan Party (IPP). Hassan enjoys a good reputation, as after defeating Mr Singha in by-elections from this constituency in 2022, he carried out various development works in the constituency. Mr Singha joined the PTI after the defeat but left PTI after the May 9 incident and joined the IPP. In this provincial constituency, Hassan Awan has an edge over other contestants.

In PP-82 Khushab 2, Muhammad Asif Awan is sailing safely, even though independent candidate Sardar Altaf Ali Raza Khan, having a considerable vote bank in the Municipality of Khushab, may inflict a dent. However, Asif is likely to win despite PTI nominee Masood Anwar Kandan effectively running his campaign from this constituency.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2024

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