ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz has an edge over the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf in Sialkot in at least two constituencies due to the ongoing tussle between PTI’s two senior leaders, Usman Dar and Fardoos Ashiq Awan.

Dar is contesting election against PML-N’s heavyweight and former foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif in NA-73 Sialkot-2, whereas Fardoos Aashiq Awan is contesting against Armagan Subhani of the PML-N in NA-72 Sialkot-1.

District Sialkot had always been considered as the stronghold of the PML-N from where it had clean swept 2013 elections. The business community of Sialkot also supports the PML-N because of the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway project and the provision of uninterrupted electricity during the PML-N government which was not available before 2013.  According to media reports, Dar is a strong contender against Asif and the election between the two seems to be neck to neck.

Interestingly, the tussle between Dar and Awan started over the awarding of party tickets to candidates last month. PTI workers claimed that Dar also removed welcoming banners of Awan from stadium road just a few hours before Imran Khan’s visit to the city last week.  

A senior PTI leader from Sialkot told The Nation on condition of anonymity that the party leadership had received such kind of complaints but no written complaint was received from Awan. He admitted that both Dar and Awan were not on the same page and they were not playing their role to get the PTI won both seats from Sialkot city.

Dar gained popularity in the national politics as well as in Sialkot after he filed a petition against Asif in the Islamabad High Court challenging his nominations papers for 2013 elections. Asif was disqualified by the IHC before the Supreme Court set aside the high court’s decision and allowed him to contest the upcoming general election.

He said that the PTI awarded tickets of PP-36 to Tahir Hundli and PP-39 to Mian Abid on the recommendations of Dar.  Awan went to Bani Gala and met with Imran Khan and asked him to review his decision and give tickets to Saeed Bhali and Dilawar Baig, which the PTI leadership had accepted, he said.

Former District Chairman Mian Naeem Javeed and former PPP MPA Tahir Hundli are contesting the election in NA-72 as independent candidates after they were refused tickets by the PTI leadership. Both had joined the PTI a few months ago and now they were also giving tuff time to Aashiq.  PML-N ticket holder Armagan Subhani, who hails from the Gujjar family, has a good vote bank of his birardari (family) in this constituency. Former National Assembly speaker and PTI leader Chaudhry Ameer Hussain is also not supporting Awan because the PTI did not take him on board over the distribution of tickets in Sialkot district.

On the other hand, a healthy competition between PTI candidate Brig (retd) Aslam Ghuman and PML-N candidate Rana Shamim is expected in NA-76 Sialkot-5. In this constituency, the PTI candidate has edge over Shamim who was a member of the National Assembly in the last tenure but he was out of the reach of voters. Ghuman’s family is also a familiar political family in district Sialkot and it has good respect among voters.

PML-N’s candidate Syed Iftikhar-ul-Hassan is a senior politician and considered a strong candidate against PTI’s candidate Ali Asjad Malhi in NA-76 Sialkot-4.

Sahabzada Usman Khalid is also contesting the election as an independent candidate from the same constituency and he had also applied for the PTI ticket but failed to get it. Khalid is running the election campaign in full swing and he hopes to secure a good number of votes.