Analysis: PML-N and PTI lock horns in Lodhran

Ever since the Election Commission of Pakistan, announced a by-election in the wake of the de-seating PTI’s dissident MPAs, there has been political heat in the two provincial constituencies of Lodhran like every other constituency.

PTI is facing a shortage of candidates for this election and is offering party tickets to former PML-N candidates from Lodhran. PML-N has entered into a seat adjustment agreement with Tareen Group to put Multan division party president and MNA Lodhran Abdul Rehman Kanju to political test. On the one hand, his local political group, Shaheed Kanju group, has candidates, on the other hand, two former MPAs Zawar Hussain Warraich and Nazir Baloch have been de-seated from the Jahangir Tareen group.

If a party ticket is given to the candidates of the Tareen group, then the former local candidates do not seem to be withdrawing from the election and the election campaign has also started. Zawar Hussain Warraich is the candidate for Tareen Group from PP-224 and Nazir Baloch is the candidate from PP-228. Zawar Warraich went to PTI from PML-N and Nazir Baloch also went to PTI from Shaheed Kanju Group and from PML-N.

But nowadays the situation is such that in case of taking or not taking the ticket, the vote bank of the candidates will be affected. However, sources said that after the announcement of the D-seat, Amir Qabal Shah has started the election campaign from PP-224 and Pir Rafiud-Din Shah from PP-228. Aamir Iqbal Shah is adamant to contest elections from PP-224 in any case even if he has to contest on a PTI ticket. If PML-N in PP-224 Dunyapur announces its support to Zawar Warraich of the Tareen group and does not give a ticket to Amir Iqbal Shah, then Amir Iqbal Shah will contest elections either as an independent or on a PTI ticket.

But it will be better for Amir Iqbal Shah to be independent. If Zawar Warraich contests the election on the PML-N ticket, it may affect his vote bank because, since the last day, PML-N workers have been claiming the ticket to Amir Iqbal Shah because he is associated with PML-N. They also have a personal vote bank that can accompany them in the form of a victim card. Malik Aslam Awan, leader of PML-N, is also a candidate for the ticket but the chances of getting the ticket are low. On the other side, even the personal vote bank of Zawar Warraich cannot be denied, but due to today’s ‘turncoat’ tag and deviation from PTI, only personal votes can be obtained.

Compared to these two, PTI does not have any candidate with a sizeable vote bank who can compete with these candidates. PTI leader Malik Asif Awan is also a candidate but the party is not giving the green signal yet as he himself is waiting for the green signal from Amir Iqbal Shah. Malik Asif Awan had made a good vote bank in the last election but his non-participation in 2018 may have proved to be detrimental to him.

He has also made various political offers by circulating the party so that PTI can survive in Lodhran. Although the PTI votes do exist in Lodhran, in case of not having the right candidate, they may be lost. The same is the situation of PTI in PP-228 as voters in Lodhran and these two constituencies are divided into four groups namely PML-N, PTI, Shaheed Kanju group and Tareen group. But the Shaheed Kanju group has the upper hand over them. Local analysts say that victory in both the constituencies is possible only for the candidates supported by the Shaheed Kanju group.

In PP-228, Siddique Khan Baloch, leader of Shaheed Kanjo Group and PML-N MPA, has more influence and has his own vote bank. Since the 2018 election, he has been in the constituency as if he is preparing for the MNA seat for the next election in 2023. Along with him, his sons Zubair Khan Baloch and Umair Khan Baloch were also at the forefront. On PP-228, Siddique Baloch has a personal interest as a result of a tussle with Nazir Baloch and his father Ahmed Khan Baloch. Defeating them in any case was their mission. And this time he will field his old teammate, Pir Rafi-ud-Din Shah, against Nazir Baloch.

There are no significant PTI candidates in front of them and apparently, according to the current situation, the contest will be between Rafiuddin Shah and Nazir Baloch and not of any party. Both candidates have a personal vote bank. And in the last elections, the late Hassan Mahmood of the Syed family also used to participate in the elections and used to get 15 to 20 thousand votes. If Rafiuddin succeeds in getting the support of Syed Family from Hassan Mehmood (late), his victory will be easy. If PML-N does not give the ticket, then maybe Rafiuddin Shah will run in the election as an independent. In comparison, it is possible that Captain Izzat Javed will get a PTI ticket which has not been clarified yet and there is no special candidate besides him.

It may be recalled that Amir Iqbal Shah is a former MPA and son of former MNA Pir Iqbal Shah who defeated Jahangir Tareen’s son Ali Khan Tareen in the by-election. Pir Rafiuddin Shah is a former MPA. Voters and local political leaders may switch their parties and political position. But the centre of Lodhran politics has been Abdul Rehman Kanju since the murder of Siddique Khan Kanju in 2002 and his long-time ally Siddique Baloch is the main player in this constituency, and also has his own political clout.