GUJRAT, March 17: As the `sufferings’ of old guards at the hands of new entrants to Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) continue in Gujrat, the fresh `casualty’ is party’s district president and ex-MNA Malik Hanif Awan.
According to well-placed sources in the PML-N, the party leadership has asked Awan to run for the Punjab Assembly seat PP-114 (Sara-i-Alamgir) instead of NA-107, the seat he won in the December 2012 by-election by bagging over 100,000 votes.
Sources say the party wants to accommodate Abid Raza of Kotla group who joined the PML-N after the 2008 general elections. The move is highly surprising for all and sundry in the Gujrat PML-N.
Talking to Dawn, a couple of local PML-N leaders regretted that the party hierarchy had neither counted the sacrifices of Mr Awan he rendered for the party in Gujrat since the Oct 12, 1999 coup by Pervez Musharraf nor the fact of bagging of record votes by him a few months ago. When this correspondent approached Awan, he confirmed that the leadership had asked him to contest for the Punjab Assembly seat.
Sources quoted Mian Nawaz Sharif as telling Hanif Awan that Hamza Shahbaz Sharif had reportedly made a commitment to awarding PML-N ticket to Chaudhry Abid Raza of Kotla group during the by-elections held in December to appease the Kotlas who had also been demanding a ticket for the by-election.
It is learnt that a banned religious outfit that is known for its affiliation with the PML-N in Punjab has also sought the N ticket for Abid Raza due to his strong association with it (the outfit).
Chaudhry Abid Raza was convicted in the murder case of six people during an assassination bid on former Gujrat Tehsil Nazim and ex-MPA Ghulam Sarwar Bhooch (late) back in 1998. Mr Bhooch had then survived the bid. Abid Raza was awarded a death sentence under section 7 of Anti Terrorism Act and he remained in the Gujranwala prison where his contacts had reportedly been developed with a key figure of a banned outfit who was also facing jail in the murder case of senior police officer Ashraf Marth.
Both the Kotla and Bhooch groups later reconciled after more than three decades of enmity as Sarwar Bhooch had also been awarded death sentence in 2002 in connection with the murder case of Haji Abdul Khaliq, the elder brother of Abid Raza.
After the reconciliation between the rival groups, Raza was set free in 2003. A law enforcement agency had also taken Mr Raza into custody in connection with attacks on former president Pervez Musharraf due to Raza’s alleged links with militant groups and he remained in captivity for more than a year but released later on due to the intervention of the PML-Q leadership.
The Kotla group had been the part of PPP and its nominee Aamir Usman Raza had won the Punjab Assembly seat PP-115 on PPP ticket in 2002 general elections but soon after the polls, the group had joined the PML-Q whereas in the 2008 elections, the group had to face split as Abid Raza and three of his brothers joined the PML-N and their nominee Irfanuddin contested as an independent candidate and won the PP-115 seat whereas two of Abid Raza’s brothers are still in the PML-Q. Mr Raza used to move in a heavily guarded convoy.
AWAN: Ex-MNA Hanif Awan was first elected MPA on the PML-N ticket in 1997 general elections from Sara-i-Alamgir but could not contest the 2002 elections due to the graduation bar. However, he pitched his nephew Dr Ajmal Siddiq Awan on two seats --- NA-107 and PP-114-- on the PML-N ticket who remained runner-up.
In 2008 elections Awan fielded his another nephew Malik Jamil Awan who won on PML-N ticket but later on was disqualified by the Supreme Court in September 2012 for having dual nationality. Awan then contested the December 2012 by-poll and won NA-107 with a huge margin.
Sources said when the party leadership asked Hanif Awan to contest from PP-114, he reportedly sought PP-115 as well for another diehard party worker Chaudhry Farrukh Majeed, a senior vice president of PML-N in Gujrat. Awan reportedly sought the party ticket for Mr Majeed as a prerequisite for his (Awan’s) withdrawal from NA-107.
It is learnt that Mian Nawaz Sharif accepted his demand but the Kotla group claims that it has gained the party nod for both NA-107 and PP-115.
Sources in the party say that the Kotla group will never withdraw from PP-115 even after getting NA-107. In that case, Hanif Awan may also go to contest NA-107 independently besides putting his own independent panel on both the Punjab assembly seats falling under the NA seat, a situation the PML-N can never afford.
RAZA: Abid Raza who has launched his campaign as N candidate for NA-107, belongs to the Deobandi sect. The rival Barelvi sect that dominates the population of NA-107 will play a decisive role in the local politics like the last by-elections as a large number of local clerics influenced by Pir Aminul Hasnat Shah of Bhera Sharif, the chief of PML-N religious wing, have unanimously decided at a meeting held here the other day not to support Abid Raza due to his strong affiliation with the other sect.