GUJRAT, Oct 2: Known as mini-Larkana up to mid-80s and later a PML-N stronghold, Jhelum district presents a different political picture this time.
Because of the split opinion it is difficult to predict the likely winner.
Except once, the two national assembly seats of the district had been bagged by the PML-N since 1985. In 1990, four-time PML MNA Raja Afzal was defeated by PPP leader and former governor late Chaudhry Altaf.
Another four-time MNA Nawabzada Raja Iqbal Mehdi of the PML-N has not faced any defeat since the start of his political career in 1985 when he was elected as MPA.
Before the 2001 local polls, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat had tried to motivate the two big names of the district to sever their relations with the PML-N, but failed. The Chaudhrys then contacted Chaudhry Altaf’s son Farrukh Altaf who, following an assurance that the PML-QA would give him a ticket for district Nazim, parted ways with the PPP. And in the local elections, the entire body of the district came from the PML-QA except the Naib Nazim, a PML-N-backed candidate.
There are two national — NA-62 and 63 — and four provincial seats — PP-24, 25, 26 and 27 — in Jhelum. This time ex-MNA Raja Afzal is out from the contest due to the graduation condition. He has fielded his son, Raja Safdar (PML-N), for NA-62. The PPP has fielded Chaudhry Saeed Zafar, who has resigned from the Madhu Kalis union council nazimship, while the PML-QA has allotted ticket to Chaudhry Shahbaz, the brother-in-law of the late Chaudhry Altaf and LHC chief justice Chaudhry Iftikhar Husain and the uncle of district Nazim Farrukh Altaf.
The district Nazim is campaigning for Chaudhry Shahbaz and for Chaudhry Shujah (Ind) for PP-24.
In PP-24, the PML-QA has fielded ex-MPA Chaudhry Saqlain, the brother of Sohawa tehsil Nazim Chaudhry Taj. Reports say PML-QA leadership had approached the district Nazim to convince his cousin, Shujah, to withdraw, but he turned down their request. This situation has weakened the PML-QA position in the constituency.
The PPP has awarded ticket to a newcomer, Raja Imtiaz Kiani, while the PML-N has pitched former Jajial union council Nazim Dr Abdul Qayyum.
Three newcomers — Mehr Fiaz (PML-N), Advocate Mian Amir Hayat (PPP) and Chaudhry Tasneem Nasir Iqbal (PML-QA) are in the race for PP-25.
According to political circles, a triangular fight is expected in NA-62, PP-24 and PP-25, and it is not easy to predict which party will win.
As ex-MNA Nawabzada Raja Iqbal Mehdi is also out of the race due the graduation bar, the PML-N has allotted ticket to Raja Asad, the son of ex-MNA Raja Afzal, for NA-63. The PPP has pitched Syed Saeedul Hasan Zaidi, while the PML-QA has fielded ex-MPA Syed Shamas Haider. Millat Party senior vice-president and former provincial health minister Malik Abdul Qayyum is also a contender.
Former MNAs Raja Afzal and Iqbal Mehdi are canvassing for Raja Asad while Jhelum tehsil Nazim Chaudhry Khadim Husain, now in PPP fold, is campaigning for Saeedul Hasan Zaidi at NA level besides his son, Nadeem Khadim, a PPP candidate for PP-26. Shamas Haider is being supported by the district Nazim, while the PML-QA district president and Jhelum tehsil Naib Nazim, Malik Asmat, is running the campaign for his relative, Malik Abdul Qayyum.
In PP-26, Nadeem Khadim (PPP), Abdul Qadoos Khan (PML-QA), the son of former minister Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and Shaikh Tanvir (PML-N) are in the run.
Over the issue of party ticket, there is a split in PPP circles for PP-27. The PPP has pitched a newcomer, Raja Riasat Ali, while ex-MPA Raja Nasir Ali Khan of the PPP is contesting as an independent candidate. The PML-QA has fielded its district secretary-general, Nazar Gondal, while the PML-N has allotted ticket to Abid Ashraf Jotana, also a newcomer.