Islamabad - Former parliamentarian and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's candidate for NA-54 Islamabad, Asad Umer , may not have any mega project to his credit in the last five years, but he seems to be full of passion, energy and spirit to transform the lives of the rural population.
“I promise ample drinking water, basic healthcare, education and massive reforms for the residents of capital after coming to power,” said the business executive-turned-politician while talking to The Nation.
Umer while sitting in a small but an ice-cold conference room of his election cell — recently established in a multi-storey commercial plaza of G-11/1 — said Islamabad was facing a daily shortage of 100 million gallons of water.
“We will solve the water crisis within no time. The plan is readily approved by the committee of common interest, just a sincere political will and effort is required,” he said firmly.
Umer, 57, leapfrogged into the top party position in 2012 after resigning his lucrative job as the chief executive officer, Engro.
Youngest of six brothers, he migrated to Karachi after the retirement of his father- General Ghulam Umer, but he had to make Islamabad his second home after becoming MNA in 2013 elections.
When he joined, PTI's narrative of "corruption-free new Pakistan" was fading away due to massive induction of conventional politicians - wearing tags of corruption charges.
Realising cultural superiority of a celebrity brand over a political one, Imran Khan was quick to induct and brand Umer as a celebrity — an honest technocrat-cum-wizard and a genius — who could transform the dying economy and Umer successfully carried that image.
The nominated finance minister of PTI, Umer has yet to come up with some out of the box solution to the crippling national economy, but at the constituency level, he has a detailed wish-list.
“The second priority will be the health sector; the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) would be expanded with a separate hospital for the rural population. Every basic healthcare unit will be upgraded and brought under the supervision of PIMS instead of the district management,” Umer said sharing his ambitions.
He said that in the education sector, more schools would be established in rural areas, and the existing schools will be upgraded.
“We will build a landfill site along with taking measures to reduce pollution in the federal capital,” he continued.
The former lawmaker believes his many efforts could not bear fruit being in the opposition in the past tenure.
"The laws of tenancy and CDA's private land acquiring laws need urgent attention, we after much deliberation and hard work tabled the amendment in the National Assembly, but the ruling party (PML-N) vetoed it on the sheer political rivalry,” he lamented.
Umer said that despite a strong opposition from the former ruling party, there were many things to his credit.
Since Islamabad was built, there has been no job quota for its own residents.
Umer moved a resolution in the National Assembly for a separate quota for domicile holders of Islamabad in the federal government services. He convinced the lawmakers that since the quota existed, Islamabad should also have the same right as available to other provinces.
“In addition to the job quota, I also got approval for the elimination of five percent maintenance charges from lower grade government employees and the graveyard in rural areas of NA-48and numerous community-based development projects,” he said adding an approval for a hospital in the rural area “also goes to my credit”.
He said he raised his voice for the rights of the rural population of the capital and will continue to take every possible measure which could upgrade the quality of life of the rural population.
“I was living an accomplished life, my only objective of coming to politics was to serve people. I have been serving people and would continue to do so,” he claimed.
“After coming to power, we will create ample jobs in non-industrial and non-agriculture sectors in Islamabad,” he said.
As Umer was sharing his future goals, the party workers in the adjacent hall were preparing for a corner meeting in Sector G-12.
At 5.30 pm, around a dozen workers jumped into SUVs and cars and the convoy headed to the residence of Union Council Deputy Chairman Malik Riaz.
As the rally left the carpeted double road of G-11 to enter G-12, the scene changed completely. It was a contrast to wide open houses, greenery and velvety carpeted roads of the neighbouring posh sector.
Creeping at snail speed on narrow streets with sharp turns, overflowing sewage and continuous stinking smell, it took longer to cover only a few kilometers.
Over the decades, the increasing housing demand due to a massive increase in the population has turned lush green fields of the city into tiny and big housing complexes.
The overall deficit of accommodation has attracted low-income group people to the area and, of course, the land mafia.
Today, it is a haphazard construction. There are houses as small as 3 marla and some spread over kanals.
The poverty-stricken population is obviously keen to get clean drinking water, schools, hospitals but what they want most is the rights to sell and buy their land.
According to locals, the CDA acquired the area in 1985, banning new construction and new connections of gas and electricity. They resisted the Rs1,100 per kanal rate offered by the civic body for the prime land of the capital and went to the court. Since then, the locals cannot sell and transfer land officially and all the land transactions take place on a plain stamp paper.
“After coming to power, I promise you to immediately amend the draconian laws, which empower the CDA to acquire any land, we would amend the clause which empowers the CDA to acquire any land. After the amendment you will be able to sell your land at market price,” Umer told the locals amid a loud applause.
In local political discourse, showiness is a must. Rhetorical flair, allegations against opponents or tall claims is how the crowd is charged, but Umer is too shy of false promises or mudslinging of opponents, although he tries to imitate Khan's speech style.
“Our dispute with Sharifs is only on principles, otherwise, we have no enmity, Shehbaz Sharif came to my house to offer Fateha recently over the death of my brother,” Umer told the audience.
The IBA graduate who worked for international multinationals for decades in the country and abroad seems impressed with the overwhelming spiritual inclination of his party chief Imran Khan after marrying Bushra Bibi, a devotee of Hazrat Baba Farid Gunj-e-Shakr.
“We have blessings of spiritual leaders (Buzurg), this time, we will win, God willing,” he said with solid conviction.
Was he referring to Imran Khan or it was the recently announced support of Golra Sharif Pirs or the former strategist was just using the religious card, neither anyone asked nor he explained.
“You are good people, during the last five years, none of you came to me to ask any illegal favour, most of the requests were community-based. I believe you people have been deprived of your basic rights that’s why when I was asked from where I will contest elections, I opted for NA 54, which is thought a tough constituency as compared to urban areas,” he told the audience.
“People, I want to do something good for you,” Umer said as the supporters cherished him.
“I will ensure equal division of resources among urban and rural areas, it is unjust that F-10 roads are re- carpeted instantly as if the unmettled roads of G-12 are not even required,” Umer continued.
Just outside the noisy house of Malik, life was normal in the streets of the Mouza Mera Jaffer. If Umer was popular in the constituency so were his opponents.
“My vote belongs to Nawaz Sharif,” said Zohaib, a local. He said, “if Nawaz is corrupt, so are the others”.
“Look around, he has established a network of roads and metros in the whole country, I daily go to Rawalpindi on the metro at the very nominal fare,” the daily wager said proudly.
Umer's constituency consists of a mix of urban and rural areas from Sector G-10 to Tarnol. In 2018 delimitation, NA-49 was divided between this constituency and NA-53.
With a total of 28 candidates, half of whom enjoy the support of different political parties, the small constituency of NA 54 is expected to see a tough competition in the upcoming general election scheduled for July 25.
PML-N candidate Anjum Aqeel Khan and Mian Aslam of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal are also considered heavyweights in the constituency.
Aqeel has got the support of ideological PML-N workers, while Mian Aslam may dent Umer's vote bank by using the same religious card.
The vote will be further divided among candidates, which include Usama, Anwar UI Haq, Anwar Khan, Badee ur Rehman, Chan Mehboob Noon, Tasneem ul Haq Hassani, Hamid Shamim, Hafeez ur Rehman, Raja Imran Ashraf (PPPP), Zubair Farooq Khan, Sajid Mehmood, Shamakh Hassan Khan, Shamas ur Rehman, Saima Sheraz, Tayyab Nawaz Malik (Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan), Mowa Khan, Amir Naeem, Azeem Khan, Muhammad Ashraf Shehzad Khan (All Pakistan Muslim League), Ismat Raza Jahan (AWP), Fatima Malik , Maimoonah, from (PTI- Gulali) and Nosheen Gui Khara.