KASUR - MUHAMMAD ABBAS SOZ -

NA-140, Kasur-3, carries importance among all the five constituencies of the district as two heavyweights, Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri of PTI and Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali, an independent, are in the arena.

Two more local notable political figures, Malik Rasheed Ahmad Khan of PML-N and Dr Azeem Zahid Lakhwi of PML-Q (backed by PPP as a result of seat adjustment) are also in the race.

NA-140, having 291,601 registered voters, comprises two provincial constituencies, PP-179 and PP-180, while the whole constituency contains rural areas spreading over Khuddian, Kanganpur, Allahabad, Talwandi, Mandi Usmanwala, Dhing Shah and scores of other villages. It is inhabited by big clans like Arain, Jutt, Rajput, Dogar, Mayo, Kamboh, Mughal, Sheikh and Malik.

The most glaring fact of the political wrestlers having national and international fame is that all the four contestants are turncoats as they have been changing their loyalties from time to time to win at the ballot box.

Former foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri started his political career from Tehrik-e-Istiqlal. Subsequently, he switched over to PML-N, PPP and PML-Q before joining PTI. The other ex-foreign minister Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali took start from a member of Majlas-e-Shoora of General Ziaul Haq, followed by his victory in the 1985 elections which were conducted on non-party basis. Thereafter, he appeared on the platform of different political parties like PPP, Mulim League (Junejo), PML-N and once again PPP in 2008 as a winner of the MNA slot. He, however, resigned from the seat of MNA in 2012 and said goodbye to PPP to embrace Imran Khan’s PTI with a view to sharing fruits of his popularity wave. But, apparently over the issue of party tickets, Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali got dejected, left PTI and decided to contest the election 2013 as an independent candidate.

Dr Azeem Zahid Lakhwi comes from the dynasty of Baba Dhing Shah (RA), a renowned spiritual mentor of the faithful, particularly of Ahl-e-Hadith sect. Dr Lakhwi also commands a highly esteemed position among thousands of his followers and devotees of his ancestors. He, after remaining a candidate of PML-N, for a decade or so, changed his loyalties for PML-Q when N-League refused to award him its ticket in the by-election held in Feb 2012. Interestingly, his opponent Malik Rasheed Ahmad Khan who won the by-election with a narrow margin of 89 votes once again joined hands with PML-N after ditching PML-Q.

According to political pundits, the last year’s by-election will affect the upcoming elections 2013 and damage the heavyweights as the constituency has been divided into two groups, Malik and Anti-Malik. Anti-Malik Group includes Mian Kasuri, Sardar Assef, Dr Lakhwi, Waqas Mokal, Muhammad Hussain Dogar and other local political figures like Javed Ashiq Dogar, Shabeer Ahmad and Khurram Saleem Naol, all in the run for the coming polls. Political analysts are again viewing the constituency NA-140 an easy game for Malik Rasheed Ahmad Khan as they believe anti-Malik votes would be divided. Former FM Mian Kasuri proved a gamer by convincing ex-MPA and PPP district president/Punjab vice president, Sardar Muhammad Hussain Dogar, to join PTI along with a number of other PPP office bearers. Apparently, Sardar Dogar and Ch Manzoor, while remaining in PPP, had some differences over the party candidature, which could not be resolved.

Interestingly, PPP has been washed away in NA-140 as no prominent leader is left to contest election from this constituency. The party has only Khurram Saleem Naol in the race from PP-179. He was used as a tool by Anti-Malik Group and could secure only 6,000 votes as a PPP candidate in the by-election 2012.

Political analysts believe that the actual contest will be among Kasuri of PTI, Malik Rasheed of PML-N and Dr Lakhawi of PML-Q who is from Ahl-e-Hadith camp. Prima facie, he has not only lost the support of a PPP strong candidate, but also that of many religious votes over joining PML-Q.

Sardar Assef will have to rely on his personal vote bank to counter his opponents. He is using the tool of baradarism and is striving to win the favours of Arain Baradari, the biggest one in NA-140. Sardar Assef, the established political wizard, may also play some magic in the coming few days to dent his main political rival Mian Kasuri, while Dr Lakhawi looking weaker is stronger because of Sardar Waqas Mokal of PML-Q in PP-180.

Who emerges victorious will depend on the political caliber of the contestants as all the main wrestlers have abundant resources and are enjoying firm footings.