Attaullah Cheema

LALAMUSA-In the forthcoming by-election scheduled to be held on January 17, 20 candidates are vying for the NA-107 Gujrat seat which was vacated by Jameel Awan who was declared disqualified by the court on account of his dual nationality.

The candidates include: Malik Muhammad Hanif, uncle of former MNA Malik Jameel Awan, Abid Raza Kotla, Rehman Naseer, Malik Ali Asghar Advocate, Irfan Naseer Marala, Muhammad Ilyas Chaudhry, Ch Azfar- Riaz, Syed Mubashar Hussan, Muhammad Khalid Bashir, Fasil Javaid Malik, Muhammad Riaz Chib, Shabir Ahmad, Nauman Ashraf, Rashid Mehmood, Ejaz Anwar Awan, Nadeem Ashiq, Zahid Hussain, Muhammad Akram and Raja Abid. Returning officer Majid Sharif Doggar has declared their nomination papers valid.

Although a large number of candidates is contesting the election, yet the main contenders are nominees of PML-N and the PML-Q-PPP alliance. The alliance has nominated Ch Rehman Naseer Marala as their common candidate whereas the PML-N has yet to decide its candidate. There are two politically influential and potential candidates - Malik Hanif Awan and Abid Raza Kotla of PML-N. The party has to choose one of them, which no doubt would be a herculean task for the PML-N high-ups as denial to one may possibly adversely affect the prospects of nominated candidate, as per general feeling here among local political circles.

However, the election activities are slowly gaining momentum in electoral constituency NA-107 which comprises Sara-Alamgir, Kharian and Kotla Arab Ali Khan, towns of Gujrat district. The candidates and their supporters are engaged in corner meetings and approaching voters as part of their electioneering. Their old contacts, relations and friendships are revived whereas annoyed and aggrieved voters displeased with the candidates previous cold attitude are being appeased with a promise that in future they would be given special attention.

The voters, supporters as well as party workers at respective election offices are getting pampered for the contest. A candidate who claims to be PTI member is also in the field whereas the PTI maintains that it is not taking part in the bye-election. The existing turbid election scenario would become vivid within a couple of days when process of awarding party tickets and withdrawal of nomination papers is completed.

In 2002 general elections, Rehman Naseer Marala was elected as MNA from the constituency on PPP ticket by defeating PML-Q candidate Syed Noorul Hasan and PML-N candidate Malik Ajmal Siddique Awan, a close relative of Mr Hanif. Rehman Naseer during Musharraf regime had changed his loyalty and joined PPP (Patriots). Later, he once again changed his mind and switched over to PML-Q.

In 1997 general elections, Hanif Awan was elected as MPA on PML-N ticket from same area PA seat by defeating Muhammad Farooq of Wattoo Group. Hanif has been associated with PML-N for more than two decades and remained faithful to the party even during difficult days of Musharraf regime. Abid Raza Kotla has no election contesting history, however he is considered to be active and influential figure of PML-N. As there is no last word in Pakistani politics, there is no knowing what course of events will take place in the next few days and which candidate succeeds to get PML-N ticket.

The constituency is considered to be stronghold of PML-N but at the same time it is seen that there are strong differences and rifts in the party at the district level and the rift may affect the election results.