LAHORE - As the Niwanis, an influential political group of Bhakkar district, has been disqualified by the Lahore High Court, the PML-N is likely to lose a major district of Punjab in general elections.

Rasheed Akbar, Saeed Akbar and Hameed Akbar are learnt to have been disqualified by a Lahore High Court full-bench in two different cases of default on utility bills. Close aides of the Niwanis however said they would file an appeal in the Supreme Court and hopefully get a relief. They claimed the district would continue to remain a citadel of the PML-N, under the house of Niwanis.

Over the last 50 years, the politics of Bhakkar has been influenced by the Niwani Balochs. Locals of this district strongly believe that a victory from Bhakkar could not be attained without the help of the Niwanis.

In case the three Niwanis fail to get a relief from the Supreme Court, they are expected to support the independent candidates of their tribe, which would join the PML-N after winning elections. However, at the same time the political opponents of the Niwanis could also take benefit with Rasheed, Saeed and Hameed out of electoral race.

The Bhakkar district politics, which strictly revolves around the residing tribes of the district, sustained the Niawnis against their major rivals Shahani Balochs and Dhandla Pathans.

The Niwanis, Shahanis, Dhandlas are the major tribes of Bhakkar, who are followed by Utra and Cheena Rajputs, Awans and Syeds, besides other settler-clans.

The Dhandlas and Cheenas, who are aligned to the PML-N during the Musharraf regime were cut out of the race of party tickets due to the Niwanis strong influence and the PML-N to adjust the Dhandlas got elected Zafar Ullah Dhandla as party Senator.

However, other Dhandlas were in the electoral race as independent candidates with the blessings of their clan. The Shahanis are also in the race, besides a group of Utras with the support of Cheenas.

The PML-N has awarded tickets for NA-74, PP-48 and PP-49 Bhakkar to Rasheed Akbar Niwani, Saeed Akbar Niwani and Hameed Akbar Niwani, respectively.

The PPP has fielded Hasnain Ijaz Shahani, while the PTI put Rafique Ahmed Khan Niazi in the race for NA-74. Other important candidates include independents Doctor Afzal Khan Dhandla, Ahmed Khan Niwani, Nasrullah Khan Dhandla, Malik Zaheer Ahmad Utra, Naeem Ullah Khan Shahani and Muddassar Nazeer Utra.  In the result of 2008 polls, Rasheed Akbar Khan Niwani won NA-74 as an independent candidate by bagging 98,366 votes, while Dr Afzal Khan Dhandhla of PML-N was the runner up who secured 86,688 votes. Rasheed Niwani later joined the PML-N. PML-Q chief Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain with the support of the Niwanis secured NA-74 in the 2002 general elections by getting 103,508 votes. Dr Afzal Khan Dhandhla of PML-N was again the runner up with 71,607 votes.  The PP-49 was won by Saeed Akbar Niwani as an independent candidate in the 2008 polls who too later joined the PML-N along with his brother Rasheed Akbar.

Ghazanfar Abbas Cheena was the PML-N candidate who filed a petition against the Niwanis in the election tribunal challenging their candidature on default of utility bills.

Asghar Iqbal Cheena and Habib Ullah Khan Niwani are the PPP candidates from PP-49 and PP-50, respectively. Dr Afzal Dhandla is contesting as an independent candidate for NA-74 with silent blessings of Dhandlas, now part of the PML-N.