SIALKOT - With the general elections around the corner, the main political parties have perhaps closed the doors on middlemen to contest elections at their platform as Sialkot-based exporters and business tycoons are being preferred to be granted party tickets for the National and Punjab assemblies’ memberships.

The main political parties including the PPP, PML-N, PTI and PML-Q are preferring local financial tycoons to their party workers and common people to be fielded to contest elections.

Those financial tycoons who had indulged in politics are: Mian Naeem Javaid (former president of Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry-SCCI and PML-Q backed former District Nazim of Sialkot), Mian Muhammad Riaz (former president of Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Muhammad Akmal Cheema (PML-Q backed former district nazim of Sialkot), his elder brother Muhammad Ajmal Cheema (PML-Q backed former provincial minister),  Imtiazud Din Dar (former Tehsil Nazim Sialkot), his son Umer Farooq Dar, Muhammad Saleem Baryar (president of PML-Q), his younger brother Ansar Iqbal Baryar (former  MPA of PML-Q), MPA Engineer Imran Ashraf, MPA Ch Muhammad Ikram, MPA Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan, PML-Q MPA Bao Muhammad Rizwan and MNA Khawaja Muhammad Asif who is also a business tycoon of Sialkot.

Now the politics in Sialkot has become a political game for the local exporters and financial tycoons. Every political party is giving priority to nominate the local financial tycoons as their candidates. On the other side, after conquering the trade and export vistas now the exporters are also showing keen interest in becoming politicians.

It seems that no politician belonging to middle class would be able to get ticket of any main political party ahead of 2013 general elections. The question arises here about the political future of the candidates belonging to the middle class if the parties nominate financial tycoons as their candidates. Doing politics is going out of the reach of the middle class men as majority of the Sialkot based businessmen are intending to contest the upcoming general elections and also hopeful of getting tickets and they have started holding corner meetings.

PML-Q backed former district nazim Mian Naeem Javaid, Imtiazud Din Dar and his son Umer Farooq Dar and former provincial minister Muhammad Ajmal Cheema have already joined the PTI after leaving the PML-Q. Now, they were back in the electoral race from the platform of PTI. MPA Engineer Imran Ashraf, a financial tycoon, has joined PTI after quitting the PML-N due to his five-year political differences with MNA Khawaja Muhammad Asif. Now, the PML-N local leadership has decided to bring a local leading property developer Ch Arshad Javaid Warraich in the constituency (PP 123, Sialkot-III) as PML-N candidate. Warraich is very close friend and business partner of Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who is rice exporter.

Exporter-turned-politician Muhammad Saleem Baryar and his younger brother Ansar Iqbal Baryar are also striving to contest the coming general elections on PML-Q platform. Sialkot based leading exporters, both of the Cheema Brothers Muhammad Ajmal Cheema and Muhammad Akmal Cheema have very close association with Ch Pervaiz Elahi, but they have joined the PTI after quitting the PML-Q. Now, they are hopeful to get the PTI tickets.

Another leading financial tycoon Mian Muhammad Riaz (former president of Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry and former chairman of Sialkot International Airport Limited) was also in the race and this time he is intending to get PML-N ticket to contest the coming general polls.

He was knocked out by the PML-N central leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif in 2002 and 2008 general elections from Sialkot city constituency (NA 110, Sialkot-I). Muhammad Ikram was elected as PML-N MPA from PP 122, Sialkot-II during the by-polls held in December 2012. Now, he was in very strong position to get party ticket.

PML-N MNA Rana Abdul Sattar from Sambrial, MNA from Pasrur Zahid Hamid and MPA from Daska Ch. Yahiya Gul Nawaz are lawyers and belong to the local landlord families. PPP’s losing candidate in PP 124 Sialkot-IV Ch Awais Mushtaq Advocate is also a lawyer. Local PPP leaders Dr Tanveerul Islam (former provincial minister) and Dr. Zaheerul Hassan Rizvi (PPP loosing candidate from Daska in 2008 polls) are running their private hospitals and a private medical college in Sialkot. Another financial tycoon and MPA Engineer Imran Ashraf will now contest coming general polls on PTI platform from Sialkot city against Khawaja Asif.

Local leaders of the PML-N, PPP, PML-Q and PTI said that their parties had received a big number of applications from the candidates belonging to even the middle class, seeking tickets for the upcoming general elections, however, tickets would be awarded to strong candidates.