BAHAWALPUR: As the election campaign season concludes for four National and eight Punjab Assembly seats here in Bahawalpur, a fierce contest looms among candidates from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) besides PML-Q and independent candidates on a couple of seats.

The NA-164 constituency and its associated PP-245 and PP-246 present a unique scenario.

PML-N candidates Riaz Hussain Peerzada (NA-164), his nephew Kazim Hussain Peerzada (PP-245), and Muhammad Afzal Gill (PP-246) face no PTI contenders. The key contenders are Syed Irfan Gardezi of the PPP and PML-N’s Peerzada for NA-164. In PP-245, Kazim Peerzada faces competition from Tahsean Nawaz Gardezi of the Islah-i-Party Pakistan (IPP) and Tahir Amin of the PPP. In PP-246, Ms. Gill of the PML-N competes against PPP’s Kamran Khalid.

For NA-165, a tough battle is expected between PML-Q’s Tariq Cheema and independent candidate Saood Majid Chaudhry, a former PML-N leader. The Jatt clan supports Mr Cheema, while the Araen clan backs Mr Chaudhry. Mr Majid was not given a PML-N ticket after Mr Cheema as a PML-Q MNA supported the coalition government following the no-confidence motion against former prime minister Imran Khan in 2022.

In NA-166, the main candidates include PTI’s Kanwal Shozeb, PML-N’s Makhdoom Samiul Hassan Gilani, and independent candidate Prince Bahawal Abbas Abbasi, son of Nawab Salahuddin. Mr Gilani, initially elected on a PTI ticket, voted against Mr Khan in the 2022 no-confidence motion. Notably, PTI’s Shozeb faced campaign restrictions imposed by the police and intelligence agencies.

Former MNA Najeebuddin Owaisi has fielded his son Muhammad Usman Owaisi as a PML-N candidate for NA-167, facing a tough challenge from the PTI candidate.

In NA-168, a fierce battle is likely between PML-N’s former provincial minister Malik Muhammad Iqbal Channar and PTI’s Samiullah Chaudhury. Despite facing a prolonged court battle, Chaudhry was declared eligible to contest, with a high court bench directing authorities not to hinder his election campaign and that of another PTI candidate, Asghar Joyia from PP-253 (Bahawalpur city).

While tough competition is expected, PML-N candidates, being the nominees of the king’s party, hold an edge, while PTI’s nominees or their supported independent candidates face challenges due to police and other law enforcement targeting.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2024

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