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PML-N ready to sacrifice NA-48 to secure NA-49

April 24, 2013

ISLAMABAD, April 23: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) seems ready to sacrifice its former legislator Anjum Aqeel Khan in order to secure the second National Assembly seat from Islamabad as it is still negotiating with the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) for a give-and-take in NA-48 and NA-49 constituencies, Dawn has learnt.

Leaders from both parties involved revealed that the PML-N leadership was ready to ask Anjum Aqeel Khan, who is allegedly involved in a land scam, to withdraw in favour of JI’s Mian Mohammad Aslam in NA-48, provided the JI reciprocates in NA-49.

However, sources said the PML-N would not withdraw Mr Khan if the JI refused to withdraw Zubair Farooq Khan from NA-49, where PML-N’s Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry is already facing a tough contest with Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar (PPP PML-Q joint candidate) and Chaudhry Ilyas Meharban of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI).

In NA-48, the PTI contestant will be former PML-N stalwart Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, whereas the PPP has given its ticket to Faisal Sakhi Butt.

Another seat, the sources said, which the PML-N was willing to vacate for the JI, is NA-121 Lahore, where the JI has awarded ticket to former MNA Farid Ahmed Piracha.

When contacted, Mr Piracha confirmed that the two parties were still negotiating through some “middlemen”, and hoped the two parties would reach an understanding on some seats.

When asked of the possibility of an adjustment in NA-121 and NA-48, he said there was nothing concrete, “but some well-wishers want to see this happening.”

Similarly, a JI spokesman, on condition of anonymity, confirmed the contacts between the two parties, but categorically stated that his party would not withdraw Zubair Farooq Khan from NA-49 in any case.

Former MNA Anjum Aqeel Khan had, in July 2011, escaped from a police station where he had been arrested for a land fraud case. He fled in a car after dozens of his supporters attacked the police station and remained in hiding for a day before surrendering after a warning was issued by the PML-N leadership.

At one point, party chief Nawaz Sharif had reportedly decided to expel Mr Khan from the party for causing damage to the party’s image, but was stopped by some close confidants. Later, a committee formed to probe the incident absolved the former legislator when Mr Khan took the stance that his escape was not a planned act.Mr Khan had also been involved in an attack on a teacher in 2009, but the issue was resolved when the MNA, who is stated as one of the main financiers of the party, apologised to the teacher.

Political experts believe Mr Khan had won the 2008 elections in a one-sided contest since the JI had boycotted the polls and the PPP had fielded a weak candidate, Dr Israr Shah. Mr Khan had secured 61,480 votes whereas Dr Israr Shah remained the runners up with 26,485 votes.

This time, the scenario is different as the 2002 winner Mian Aslam (JI) is in the run. He had managed to win from the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) platform with 40,365 votes, while his main rivals, PPP’s Dr Babar Awan and PML-N’s Syed Zafar Ali Shah, bagged 28,771 and 3,893 votes respectively.

Similarly, PML-N had won from NA-49 in 2008 after a tough contest when its candidate Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry defeated PPP’s Syed Nayyar Bokhari with a margin of just 756 votes. Mr Bokhari bagged 44,725 votes to Dr Tariq’s 45,482.

The present PPP candidate, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, was also in the field on the PML-Q ticket, but came third with 34,546 votes.

Moreover, the JI’s boycott had also played a pivotal role in the PML-N victory.

This time, regaining the NA-49 seat has become a tough task for the PML-N because of the presence of JI and Mr Khokhar.

Meanwhile, the number of candidates vying for the two National Assembly seats (NA-48 and NA-49) has doubled since the last elections as 77 candidates are in the run compared to the 34 in 2008 and 29 in 2002.

Of these, 51 are contesting from NA-48 and 26 from NA-49 according to the final list issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday.