MURREE, Dec 12: The announcement of Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s entry in elections has jolted the Murree political scenario into a new configuration of possibilities. Its candidate for PP-1, Raja Fayyaz Sarwar will now face Q League’s Sardar Sajid Khan in this constituency comprising Kotli Sattian and Murree Tehsils.
Sajid Khan is the younger brother of Murree Town Nazim, Sardar Saleem Khan. He was already in deep trouble facing a challenge to his graduation degree in the election tribunal by advocate Shafqat Abbasi. Raja Fayaz Sarwar is a cousin of former provincial minister Raja Ishfaq Sarwar and is the general secretary of Punjab PML-N.
If Sajid Khan wins the graduation suit the anti-PPP votes will be divided to benefit Advocate Shafqat Abbasi.
Murree and Kotli Sattian have been PPP strongholds since the 1970 elections. In the last elections of 2002 the party won back both the provincial and National Assembly seats it had won in 1977.
Col (retd) Habib Khan Abbasi and Babu Mohammad Hanif Abbasi retained their National and provincial assembly seats in both elections. Their win introduced a new political look in the society as both belonged to the middle class.
Habib Khan continued his struggle against the Martial Law of Ziaul Haq as a result when PPP boycotted the 1985 non-party elections, its backdoor support helped a newcomer Air Commodore Khaqan Abbasi to become the MNA by defeating Zia’s right hand man, Raja Zafarul Haq.
Khaqan Abbasi died in Rawalpindi Ojhri Camp explosion. His son Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reaping the sympathy vote won his father’s seat in 1988 defeating both the PPP and PML. He kept on winning the next four elections consecutively but could not bring much development to the area unlike his father.
During the last tenure of Nawaz Sharif he headed PIA as chairman and was arrested with Nawaz Sharif in the October 1999 Musharraf coup. Since then he had remained idle in politics and was defeated by a newcomer, PPP’s Ghulam Murtaza Satti, in the 2002 elections. A major reason for Mr Satti’s win was Sofiyan Abbasi of MMA who secured more than 30,000 votes. In the previous elections Jamaat-i-Islami had supported PML-Q, but in 2002 they contested as MMA providing the edge to PPP.
On the provincial assembly seat Mr Sarwar remained unbeaten in four consecutive elections. In 2002, in his absence, PML-N awarded its ticket to Col (retd) Riaz Satti who lost to PPP’s Shafqat Abbasi.
In the elections of 2002 new constituencies had been created in Murree and Kotli Sattian reducing the two PA seats to one making it important for political parties to secure both the national and provincial seats to retain support of both the major families of the two tehsils.
In 2002 PML-N could not find any suitable candidate for provincial assembly in Kotli Sattian but PPP succeeded in finding the pair for both seats in the persons of Advocate Abbasi and Satti. Abbasi remained active raising public issues like illegal constructions at both assembly and public forums. Being a lawyer of the Supreme Court and member of Pakistan Bar Council, he remained fully active in the lawyers’ movement for independent judiciary which has endeared him to the people. In him PPP has strong candidate. Mr Satti is liked for not joining the PPP Patriots and rejecting many attractive offers.
On the other hand PML-N is facing the same dilemma that it faced in 2002 elections. Both of its heavyweights are from Murree tehsil, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ishfaq Sarwar. As MMA has broken up it would be easier for PPP to win in the absence of an alliance between PML-N and the Jamaat. Ishfaq Sarwar seems to be the stronger candidate for national assembly but being general secretary of PML-N Punjab, he will contest for provincial assembly.