Multan  -  Although a week is left in polling, political parties look unsuccessful in gearing up their election campaigns in Multan. Political analysts believe that the election campaign lacks conventional zeal and colour because all the three major parties — PML-N, PPP and PTI — are struggling against their inner demons.

PTI’s strategy to take electables on board fires back, and that too so badly that its own city and district presidents are now running campaigns against party candidates. The PTI may pay heavy toll for Qureshi-Tarin tug of war on the polling day.

Once the largest party of Multan, PPP appears to have shrunk into a one-man’s enterprise. It even failed to find candidates for six National Assembly constituencies of Multan. Resultantly, tickets were granted to just three eligible candidates, all of them Gilanis. One ticket was given to former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, other his eldest son Abdul Qadir Gilani and third his another son Ali Moosa Gilani. Rest of three constituencies are left vacant. It appears as if the party leadership does not consider anyone but Gilanis eligible for granting NA tickets.

PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif’s ‘peaceful’ arrest has delivered a severe blow to the party’s election campaign. Political analysts believe that the party’s campaign would have gained momentum, had its leadership presented a successful power show at the airport on arrival of Nawaz.

Social media is currently abuzz with rumours regarding Shehbaz Sharif’s alleged ‘intentional failure’ in reaching the airport with rally to welcome Nawaz. As the elections are nearing, the rumour factories have started churning out fake stories regarding betrayal of Shehbaz Sharif at full pace, making PML-N workers further confused.

Constituencies and Candidates

The election commission has allotted electoral symbols to 68 candidates running from six NA constituencies and 165 from 13 provincial assembly constituencies in Multan district.

The PML-N and PTI have fielded their candidates for all six NA seats but PPP failed to bring candidates from NA-155, 156 and 159.

However, the situation on provincial constituencies is different as all the three major parties — PML-N, PPP and PTI — have their candidates against all 13 PA seats of Multan. Some other parties like MMA, Tehreek Labbaik and Pakistani Saraiki Party are also in the run.

The ECP has set up a total of 1,817 polling stations across the district for 25,56,140 eligible voters to use their right to choose their representatives for next five years on July 25.

NA-154 Multan-1

Once this constituency was known because of former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, but now it is more famous for its turncoats. The PTI candidate in 2013 election is now PML-N candidate, the PML-N candidate in 2013 got ticket from PTI, which was snatched from him by a former PPP MPA and close aide of Gilani.

Former federal minister Malik Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, who is running independent after being deprived of PTI ticket, held his portfolio till last night of the government and then joined PTI the next day. He contested 2002 election on PML-Q ticket, 2008 as independent, 2013 PML-N and now again independent.

The current PTI candidate Malik Ahmad Hasan Dehar used to be a close aide of Yousuf Raza Gilani in the past. He quit PPP in 2013, got ticket offer and joined PML-N, then switched to PTI, quit PTI and joined PPP and then again joined PTI in 2018.

The PML-N has granted ticket to Salman Qureshi, who contested 2013 election on PTI ticket. He quit his party after denial of ticket.

PPP is the only party whose candidates have shown consistency. Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, son of Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was party candidate in 2013, is again contesting election from this constituency on same party’s ticket.

It is also interesting to mention here that the MMA, an alliance of religious parties, has granted its ticket to a female candidate Irum Gull from this constituency.

A total of 13 candidates including the ones fielded by Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, All Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Saraiki Party are also in the run from this constituency. The ECP has set up a total of 287 polling stations for 385,233 eligible voters in this constituency. Previously this constituency was known as NA-151 and it is consisted of both rural and urban areas of Multan.

Political observers are of the opinion that there will be tough contest between Abdul Qadir Gilani and Sikandar Bosan in this constituency despite the fact that Bosan is running independent and currently suffering from renal failure.

 

NA-155 Multan-11

It would be appropriate if we say the majority of inner demons posing challenge to their own parties are from this constituency. The nomination of a “past jiyala” as PTI candidate has “shaken and shattered” the district and city chapters of the party. PTI’s district president Ijaz Janjua held a press conference and announced to oppose party candidate Malik Aamir Dogar. PTI city president Dr Khalid Khakwani went even one step further and announced to contest election as an independent after quitting party. The PPP has assured him support as they have failed to field their candidate in this constituency.

Current PTI candidate Malik Aamir Dogar got elected MNA from the same constituency (previously NA-149) in 2014 by-election as an independent candidate with the support of PTI. He defeated Javed Hashmi, whose defection from PTI caused the by-poll. Hashmi also ran as an independent candidate in the by-election and PML-N supported him, but to no avail. Dogar has been member of Punjab Assembly on PPP tickets twice, Naib Zila Nazim of PPP and also MNA ticket-holder of the same party. Issuance of ticket to him caused a strong revolt in PTI which shattered its district and city chapters.

On the other hand, there was a serious uproar in PML-N too against likely nomination of Hashmi as party’s candidate from NA-155. Hashmi had submitted his nomination papers for NA-155 on which chairmen of almost all union councils falling in NA-155 warned the party leadership in a joint press conference a month back that they would oppose any other candidate than Sheikh Tariq Rasheed. Hashmi has been an MNA from this constituency and he enjoys a strong support from people. Although the party has nominated Sheikh Tariq Rasheed as its candidate and Hashmi has withdrawn his papers, the current standoff may prove counter-productive for PML-N on election day.

The ECP has set up a total of 360 polling stations in the constituency for 485,810 registered voters. A total of 14 candidates are in the run and PML-N, PTI, APML, Sunni Tehreek, Pak Sarzameen Party, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, Mustaqbil Pakistan and Tehreek Labbaik Islam have fielded their candidates.

The NA-155 is an urban constituency with comparatively high literacy rate. Almost all top educational institutions including Bahauddin Zakariya University, Women University, Education University, National University of Modern Languages, Emerson College, Science College and renowned English schools are located in it.

Political observers anticipate a tough contest between PML-N and PTI while indicating that the elements like high literacy rate, posh areas and high number of educated youth might give benefit to the PTI.

 

NA-156 Multan-111

Once a stronghold of PML-N, this urban constituency of Multan, previously known as NA-150, was conquered by PTI in last (2013) election. Shah Mahmood Qureshi defeated Rana Mahmoodul Hassan of Nawaz League. Despite tough conditions, Rana had won this seat twice; in 2002 and 2008. However, Shah Mahmood’s entry into the constituency in 2013 changed the scenario and he deprived PML-N of this constituency.

The PML-N came up with a solution to Shah Mahmood problem — to pit a pir against pir — but this strategy failed even before implementation. Party sources claimed Rana Mahmood was made senator to get this seat vacated for Javed Hashmi. However, when party asked Hashmi to contest election against Shah Mahmood he refused. Then the nomination of Syed Tanveerul Hassan Gilani, a cousin of Yousuf Raza, had been finalised but a strong opposition from within the party forced the leadership to reverse this decision. Now Amir Saeed Ansari, an ex-MPA and son of current deputy mayor of Multan, is PML-N candidate against Shah Mahmood. PPP has left this constituency vacant.

The constituency is consisted of urban areas of Multan and the election commission has set up 312 polling stations for 444,724 registered voters. Out of total 13 candidates, four are independent while rest of nine have been fielded by PML-N, PTI, Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, APML, Pakistan Awami Raj, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, Mustaqbil Pakistan and MMA.

Different analyses done by the political experts indicate that although Shah Mahmood is in a strong position, he will be challenged by N candidate Aamir Saeed Ansari, whose clan — Ansaris — constitutes a considerable vote bank in the constituency.

 

NA-157 Multan-IV

Previously NA-148, this constituency (NA-157) has been the epicentre of pir politics in Multan. Two arch-rivals and caretakers of two important shrines of Multan — Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Hazrat Bahauddin Zakariya and Javed Hashmi of Makhdoom Rasheed — have contested many elections against each other from this constituency. However, both of them are out of the constituency now. In 2013, the constituency was won by PML-N candidate Abdul Ghaffar Dogar.

Although both Shah Mahmood and Javed Hashmi are out of this constituency, pir politics still continues. The PTI has granted ticket to Shah Mahmood’s son Zain Qureshi while PPP fielded Gilani’s son Ali Moosa against him. Gilanis are also related to another important and famous shrine of Multan — Darbar Hazrat Moosa Pak.

As many as eight candidates are in the run for this constituency out of which four are independent and as many fielded by political parties. Besides PML-N, PPP and PTI, Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan has also fielded its candidate from this constituency. The ECP has set up 260 polling stations for 390,725 voters of this constituency.

Recent defections from PML-N and PPP have delivered serious blow to both the parties just ahead of election. Rajan Bukhsh Gilani, an influential and cousin of Gilani, who sought PA ticket, quit PML-N after being denied the ticket. He has joined hands with Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Similarly, Murid Qureshi, brother of Shah Mahmood, quit PPP after being neglected and announced to support PML-N. Political analysts believe the candidates of all the three major parties — PPP, PML-N and PTI — are in strong condition and there will be a tough contest among them all.

 

NA-158 Multan-V

Pir politics has a strong presence in this constituency too. Gilanis, Hashmis and Shahs have visible influence on voters of this rural constituency of Multan district. They frequently shuttle between one party to the other, so do their voters. Federal minister in last N government Javed Ali Shah and his brother Mujahid Ali Shah have been switching between PML-N and PML-Q, Nawab Liaqat PPP and PML-N and late Asad Murtaza Gillani PPP, PML-N and PPP (Rao Sikandar Group).

Gilanis have a strong presence here since Bhutto era in terms of Yousuf Raza’s uncle Hamid Raza Gilani’s influence. Similarly, Syeds, Noons, Raos and Pathans also have considerable influence. Former federal minister Javed Ali Shah had won from this constituency in 2013. He has won this constituency on PML-N and PML-Q tickets while late Asad Murtaza Gilani, a nephew of Yousuf Raza, had won from here on PPP (Rao Sikandar Group’s) ticket, Nawab Liaqat on PPP ticket.

This constituency is consisted of 25 rural union councils of Shujabad tehsil bordering with Multan and Jalalpur Pirwala. These UCs include Muzaffarbad, Khokhran, Sher Shah, Sikandarabad, Shahpur, Gajju Hatta, Basti Mithu, Raja Ram, Kotli Nijabat, Rasoolpur, Matotli, Chak Arrain and Qasba Marral. Different clans like Arrains constitute 20 percent of total population of this constituency, Balochs 20 percent, Hammar 12 percent, Rao and other Urdu-speaking residents 25 percent.

Once good friends, they never knew politics would pit them against each other one day. Today Yousuf Raza Gilani and Javed Ali Shah are contesting election as rival candidates on PPP and PML-N tickets respectively. Javed Hashmi also wanted to contest election from this constituency. He had submitted his nomination papers but the party did not issue ticket to him. He withdrew from here too. The PTI has issued ticket to former MPA Ibrahim Khan.

A total of seven candidates are in the run from this constituency out of which three are independent and one each from PML-N, PPP, PTI and Pakistan Saraiki Party. The ECP has set up 298 polling stations for 436,391 voters.

 

NA-159 Multan-VI

Instead of party politics, the residents of this constituency believe in the politics of groups and personalities. Landlord families like Dewans, Noons, Laangs and Shahs lead the political course. Other important families and clans include Khakhi, Langah, Kanhu, Ghallu and Baloch. Keeping forth their personal interests, the members of these families constitute their own panels and contest elections. Political parties have no other option than to respect their demands.

PTI candidate Rana Qasim Noon is a big example. He switched over from PML-Q to PPP, then joined PML-N, became MNA, quit PML-N, formed Janoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaaz, merged it in PTI and now going to contest election from the platform of PTI.

PML-N has granted ticket to Dewan Zulqarnain Bokhari, who is son of disqualified MNA Dewan Ashiq Bokhari and brother of Chairman District Council Dewan Abbas Bokhari. A total of 14 candidates are in the run from this constituency out of which 10 are independent. This constituency is consisted of 36 union councils of Jalalpur Pirwala and Shujabad. The ECP has set up 300 polling stations for 413,257 voters in this constituency.

 

 

Pirs, polls and demons: A story of Multani politics

 

MUHAMMAD IRTAZA