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Biradari split paves the way for weak hopefuls

December 07, 2007

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JHANG, Dec 6: The final list of candidates emerging after scrutiny of nomination papers reveals that close relatives are pitched against each other that may pave the way for a third party victory.

The Jhang district has six National Assembly seats and the split in influential families of politicians will disturb the biradari vote bank.

The NA-86 (Chiniot city and Saddar) constituency has seen, in the past, many keen contests fought between Sheikh Samlanas and Shah Daultanas.

The two major branches of the Bukhari Sayeds, residing in this area for more than four centuries, have their base in Thathi Gharbi and Rajoa Saddat, respectively.

Their political ascendancy in the constituency, challenged only rarely with success in 1970 when Maulana Muhammad Zakir defeated Sardarzada Muhammad Ali Shah of Rajoa Saadat, mainly due to a split of votes between him and Sardarzada Zafar Abbas of the same family.

Muhammad Ali Shah later won the seat in a by-election after Maulana Zakir died in 1974. In the 1997 elections, Sheikh Qaisar Ahmad defeated the Sayeds on a PML-N ticket.

Shah Daultanas won the seat in 1977 and 1985 through Sardarzada Muhammad Ali Shah while Sardarzada Zafar Abbas won it in 1993 and Sardarzada Muhammad Tahir Shah, Muhammad Ali’s younger brother, in 2002.

Sheikh Samlanas had their share of success in 1988 and 1990 when Amir Hussain Sayed won the seat on a PPP ticket.

For the 2008 elections, the PPP has awarded ticket to Sayed Enayat Ali Shah, the cousin of Amir Hussain Sayed, who is facing Sardarzada Muhammad Tahir Shah on a PML-Q ticket and Qaisar A. Sheikh, a strong independent candidate as his adversaries.

Annoyed with the party decision, Amir Hussain Sayed has also filed his nomination papers from the same constituency. A split among the Sayeds has made things easier for the dark horse, Qaisar A. Sheikh.

The NA-87 (Bhowana) Mochiwala is predominantly a rural constituency, won in the past by Ghulam Haider Bharwana, Syeda Abida Hussain, Maulana Rehmatullah, Syed Asad Hayat and Ghulam Bharwana.

For the 2008 elections, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, the granddaughter of late Ghulam Haider Bharwana, is contesting on a PML-Q ticket. Her rivals are former MPA Syeda Sughra Imam (PPP), the daughter of Syeda Abida Hussain, and Syed Asad Hayat (Ind), younger brother of Faisal Saleh Hayat, who was elected MNA from this constituency in 1993.

Sughra’s mother Syeda Abida Hussain and Syed Asad Hayat hail from the Shah Jewna family of Sayeds. The constituency has a large vote bank of saint Hazrat Shah Jewna’s devotees, but there is a strong likelihood that split in the Shah Jewna family will enhance the victory prospects of Ghulam Bibi Bharwana.

The NA-88 (Shah Jewna Lalian) is perhaps the most important and prestigious constituency where two political heavyweights, Syeda Abida Hussain of the PPP and Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat of the PML-Q, are pitched against each other.

The other contestants are Raza Ali Bukhari and Sarfraz Bhatti, the son of 1965 war hero pilot Imtiaz Bhatti.

The first three candidates are close relatives. Newcomer Raza Ali Bukhari is the son of former senator Iftikhar Ali Bukhari and nephew of former ambassador and PCB chairman Zulfikar Ali Bukhari. Raza’s father is a cousin of Faisal Saleh’s father and he is also a cousin of Abida Hussain and her spouse Syed Fakhar Imam.

Sarfraz Bhatti, who enjoys support of the Bhatti tribe, does not have a real chance of creating any upset, but split in the Shah Jewna family may prove fruitful for him.

The NA-89 constituency consists of former Jhang municipality and a few rural area union councils, falling in the Saddar police station limits.

The constituency has seen worst kind of sectarian strife in the 90s. Two leaders of a sectarian outfit and two elected MNAs were assassinated during this period.

Since 1988 there have been many tough electoral battles between the Anjuman Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (ASSP) and forces opposed to it. In 2002, Sheikh Waqas Akram of the PML-Q had defeated ASSP candidate Maulana Alam Tariq, younger brother of slain SSP leader Maulana Azam Tariq.

For the 2008 elections, now defunct SSP has fielded their new chief Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi as an independent candidate against Sheikh Waqas Akram of the PML-Q.

Dr Abul Hassan Ansari (PPP) is the third serious contender. The PML-Q has awarded the ticket from PP-76, a segment of NA-89, to a close relative of Waqas Akram, Sheikh Muhammad Yaqoob who is the son of billionaire contractor Sheikh Muhammad Yousaf.

Despite being relatives, both are at daggers drawn with each other since long. Even the tickets from the same party have not helped them mend their fences.

Sheikh Yaqoob’s liasion with Maulana Ludhianvi is no longer a secret in the political circles and Sheikh Waqas Akram is leaving no stone unturned to assure Dr Abul Hasan Ansari of his full support if he withdraws from the NA seat and contest as an independent candidate from PP-76 against Sheikh Yaqoob. The infighting may result in the defeat of either of the Sheikhs or both of them.

The NA-90 and NA-91 comprise Shorkot and Ahmedpur Sial tehsils with some areas of Jhang tehsil.

Before the split of Shorkot tehsil into two tehsils, this was one NA constituency from where the Sahibzadas of Sultan Bahu had won on numerous occasions.

For the 2008 elections, the PML-Q has awarded tickets to Sahibzada Nazir Sultan from NA-90 and Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan from NA-91. They are confronted with Saima Akhtar Bharwana (ind) and Sahibzada Tahir Sultan (PML-N) in NA-90, and Rana Attaullah (PPP) and Sahibzada Tahir Sultan (PML-N) in NA-91.

Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan was elected MNA from NA-91 in 2002, but Sahibzada Nazir Sultan had lost narrowly to Saima Akhtar Bharwana from NA-90.

Sahibzada Tahir Sultan, who is the elder son of late Sahibzada Khizar Sultan, a cousin of Nazir Sultan and uncle of Mehboob Sultan, had supported Nazir Sultan and Mehboob, presumably, on the assurance that they would spare one NA seat for him in the next elections.

But the unfulfilment of the promise has led Tahir Sultan to file his papers on both constituencies. The move has given a clear edge to both Saima Akhtar Bharwana and Rana Attaullah.