SAHIWAL

In NA-161 which consists of rural areas including Ghala Mandi, Dera Rahim, Kameer, Bahadur Shah and a few other villages of Yousafwala, a neck and neck showdown is expected between PML-N candidate Ch Muhammad Ashraf and PTI candidate Muhammad Yar Dhaku.

In the constituency, Muhammad Ashraf of PML-N and Mehar Ghulam Farid Kathia of PPP have been political rivals since 1988. In 1988 elections, Ashraf from the IJI platform defeated Ghulam Farid of PPP by 8,726 votes but in the elections of 1990 Ashraf was dropped and the IJI ticket was given to Muhammad Arshad Lodhi who was defeated by Ghulam Farid with 4,433 votes as independent candidate. While Maj (r) Tajuddin could get 11,716 votes only. Again in the 1993, the contest was between Ashraf from the PML-N platform and Ghulam Farid. At that time, the JI parted ways with the IJI and Ghulam Farid emerged as victorious 4,936 votes by defeating Ashraf. He also defeated Ghulam Farid in 1997 elections with 50,407 votes.

But after takeover of General (r) Pervez Musharraf, the political structure totally changed in the whole country and Ashraf joined the PML-Q and contested election on the ticket of PML-Q and Ghulam Farid Kathia contested the elections on the PPP ticket but Rana Tariq Javed, an independent candidate, defeated both of them with 46,048 votes. Ashraf was runner-up and Kathia was at third position.

Later, Rana Tariq joined the PML-Q. In the general election of 2008, Rana Tariq of PML-Q, Ashraf contested election as independent candidate while the PML-N gave its ticket to Haji Ehsanul Haq Idrees. In these elections, Ghulam Farid was winner with 38,962 votes, while Ashraf got 33,110 votes and Rana Tariq Javed remained at third position with 28,879 votes.

For the elections of 2013, 10 candidates have withdrawn their nomination papers and remaining 16 candidates are in the contest. In the constituency, in the previous election of 2008, total registered voters were 236,482 and turnout was 57.1 % but now total registered voters are 304,922.

The main contestants are Ch Muhammad Ashraf of PML-N, Ghulam Farid of PPP, Yar Dhaku of PTI, Rana Zahid Farooq of JI while secretary general of PML-N Sahiwal Haji Ehsanul Haq Idrees is contesting the elections as an independent candidate. In the constituency mostly consisting of rural areas, clans play instrumental role in elections. Major families of the area included Jatt, Rajput and Bloach. PML-N candidate Ashraf has an edge over his rivals because of the development work carried out by him as MNA and his relations with the voters.

Ghulam Farid is contesting election from PPP ticket for seventh time. But the three-time winner currently is not enjoying a strong position. In the by-election of NA-162 held in 2012, his son Ali Farid Kathia was defeated, despite enjoying the support of PML-Q. JI candidate Rana Zahid Farooq is not in a winning position while the PTI has awarded its ticket to ex-chairman of District Council Sahiwal Muhammad Yar Dhaku who remained naib district nazim from 2002 to 2007. He also contested elections as tehsil nazim in 2007 and was defeated. He contested from PP-220 in 2002 on the PPP ticket and again in the 2008 election from this constituency as an independent candidate but faced defeats.