Multan - The apparent setback to PML-N in the shapeof disqualification of MNA Dewan Ashiq Bokhari could in fact prove a blessing in disguise as it presents an opportunity to the ruling party to revive its image by winning the resultant bye-election in Multan district.

The image of the party, which rules in Punjab as well as Centre, suffered a serious blow on October 16 when PML-N backed Makhdoom Javed Hashmi was defeated by PTI-supported independent Malik Aamir Dogar in bye-election for Multan counstituency NA-149.

Now elections are due on NA-153 Multan-VI (Jalalpur Pirwala) after PML-N MNA Dewan Ashiq was disqualifed. The Election Commission has scheduled polling for November 29 and the submission of nomination papers will take place on October 28 and 29.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership looks determined to settle the score with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as huge efforts are underway to rope in maximum support from the influential families and clans of NA-153, which is predominently a rural constituency with an estimated population of over 750,000 residents living in more than 107 villages.

Out of 13 union councils of the constituency, just two fall in Jalalpur Pirwala city. Over 350,000 voters are registered in the constituency. PML-N candidate Dewan Ashiq Bokhari won the 2013 election with 94,413 votes against runner up Rana Qasim Noon of PPPP who got 90,117 votes.

The politics of the constituency has always been dominated by influential personalities and families instead of parties. Dewan Ghulam Abbas Bokhari, the father of the disqualified MP Dewan Ashiq, represented this constituency in provincial assembly till 1977 and later on his son won 1985 non-party election.

Three major families – Deewans, Laangs and Noons – enjoy hegemony on the local politics, though some other families and clans like Khakhis, Balochs, Langahs, Kanhus and Ghallus also have strong influence. The minority vote is very little while right and left wing politics is almost non-existent. A small Shias community of the area support Dewans on basis of their sectarian affiliation with the family.

The parties have started making their alignments. The name of Dewan Muhammad Abbas Bokhari, a son of disqualified MP, is being deemed as the strongest and probable candidate for PML-N ticket while former PML-N district president and ex-MPA Syed Mujahid Ali Shah and current MPA from PP-206 Naghma Mushta Laang are also aspirants of the party ticket.

As far as PPPP is concerned, it is likely to replace its candidate. Former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s brother Ahmad Mujtaba Gillani, who has been MPA from PP-206, may run on PPPP ticket instead of Rana Qasim Noon – PPPP’s candidate in 2013 election. Sources close to Rana Qasim claim that he is considering contesting election in independent capacity with the support of PTI.

One of his closest aides and a former PPPP ticket holder from PP-205 in 2013 election, Ghulam Abbas Khakhi has formally joined PTI. Similarly, another PPPP ticket holder from PP-206 Malik Akram Kanhu has reportedly been declined MNA ticket by the party. There will be another big match between PML-N and PTI if Rana Qasim Noon secures PTI ticket, and the result of this election will leave far reaching impact on the politics of both parties in southern Punjab.