Rural areas of Punjab are intensely divided on political ideologies and party lines ahead of by-polls in 20 constituencies of the province.
While talking to Minute Mirror on phone, the local voters and influential of the areas said the trend has witnessed for the first time in decades. Unlike in the past when the people in villages generally picked their candidate on the basis of his personal profile or biradri (caste) or both, they now talk about the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-the two main and perhaps the only players in the elections-it had been learnt through interviews.
Over 300 contenders have applied for the elections, which are scheduled to be held on July 17 in 14 districts of Punjab and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will issue the final list of candidates on June 24 (Friday). The constituencies have a total of 4.5 million voters, according to the ECP. It will be one-on-one competition between the PML-N and the PTI on all seats, though the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) ticket holders are also expected to grab 10,000 to 15,000 votes in the constituencies of Lahore, Sheikhupura and Rawalpindi.
The far-right Brelvi-Sunni group, the TLP, emerged third in terms of number of votes in Lahore and grabbed the fourth position in Pakistan in general election of 2018. The TLP has fielded candidates on all 20 seats. The third main political party of the country, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has decided to back its ally, the PML-N, in the polls. “A strong contest is expected between the PML-N and the PTI in our village 216/JB. Youth is divided in two camps. It is a do-or-die situation for us,” says Naveed Baloch from PP-127 of Jhang. He said the situation in nearer villages of 451/JB, 452/JB, 217/JB was not different from his village.
The strong Baloch Ittehad of the area has announced support to the PTI candidate, Nawaz Bharwana, but it witnessed a division following the announcement. The other faction said it will vote for Aslam Bharwana, the PML-N ticket holder and former MPA, and would ensure he wins from Chack 216/JB and 217/JB. Ch Riaz Siddhu from PP-237 Bahawalnagar said they had decided to vote for “shair” (tiger-the party symbol of the PML-N) but his old friend Rao Aslam of the same constituency said he and his family will vote for the PTI candidate who has so far not been finalized.
“No matter who the candidate is, we are going to back Imran Khan,” said Rao. Muhammad Safdar Buttar lives in PP-202 Sahiwal and was a strong supporter of PML-N. Buttar seemed to be fully active in support of Nauman Langrial on Facebook. But his neighbours Mumtaz Sukhera family is a dedicated supporter of the PTI. In his late 50s and a lawyer by profession, Muhammad Ashraf Teja from Jhang told Minute Mirror that for the first time in his life he is seeing that the young generation is not ready to listen to anyone. “Jatts are voting against Jatts. Cousins and brothers stand divided on party politics.”
He claimed that majority of the youth in the constituency is Imran Khan’s supporter. “In Jhang, it is only the PTI and the PML-N on political arena. The PPP had lost its significance years ago.” Meanwhile, in PP-07 Rawalpindi, PML-N ticket holder Raja Sagheer is contesting against PTI’s Lt Colonel (rtd) Shabbir Awan. Both belong to strong political families of the area. The National Assembly constituency belongs to PTI’s Sadaqat Abbasi.
In PP-83 Khushab, PML-N’s candidate is Ameer Haider Sangha who is contesting the election against PTI’s Hasan Aslam Awan. Some strong independent candidates including Malik Asif Bha and Muhammad Tiwana are contesting from the constituency. In Bhakkar’s PP-90, PTI dissident Saeed Akbar Khan Niwani is PML-N ticket holder and Irfanullah Niazi is PTI candidate. In PP-97 of Faisalabad, Muhammad Ajmal Cheema who won as an independent in 2018 and later joined the PTI is now contesting polls on PML-N ticket against PTI’s candidate Ali Afzal Sahi who is son of former speaker of the Punjab Assembly Afzal Sahi.
In Jhang’s PP-125, Faisal Hayat Jabboana, a PTI dissident, is PML-N candidate against PTI’s Mian Muhammad Azam Cheela. While in PP-127 of Jhang the PTI dissident Mehar Aslam Bharwana is contesting polls on PML-N ticket against PTI’s candidate Nawaz Bharwana. In PP-140 Sheikhupura, PML-N’s candidate is Mian Khalid Mehmood while PTI fielded Khurram Virk.
In PP-158 of Lahore, PML-N’s candidate is Sohaib Siddiqui against PTI’s Mian Akram Usman. In PP-167 of Lahore, Nazir Ahmed Chohan is PML-N candidate against PTI’s Shabbir Gujjar. In PP-168 of Lahore, PML-N’s candidate is Malik Asad Ali Khokhar against PTI’s Malik Nawaz Awan while in PP-170 of Lahore, PML-N’s candidate is Muhammad Amin Zulqarnain against PTI’s Zaheer Abbas Khokhar. In PP-202 of Sahiwal, PTI dissident Malik Nauman Ahmad Langrial is contesting on PML-N ticket against
PTI’s Major (rtd) Ghulam Sarwar. In Multan’s PP-217 PML-N’s candidate is Salman Naeem and his rival is PTI’s Zain Qureshi, the son of Shah Mahmood Qureshi. In PP-224 Lodhran, PML-N’s candidate is Zawar Hussain Warraich against PTI’s Amir Iqbal Shah while in PP-228 of Lodhran, PML-N’s candidate is Nazir Ahmed Baloch against PTI’s Captain (rtd) Javed Khan. In PP-237 Bahawalnagar, PML-N’s candidate is Fida Hussain against
PTI’s Aftab Mehmood. In PP-272 Muzaffargarh, PML-N’s candidate is Zehra Basit Bukhari against the PTI’s Mozzam Khan Jatoi. In PP-273 Muzaffargarh PML-N’s candidate is Muhammad Sibtain Raza and PTI’s candidate is Yasir Khan Jatoi. In PP-282 Layyah, PML-N’s candidate is Tahir Randhawa and PTI has fielded Qaiser Abbas Magsi. In PP-288 D G Khan, PML-N’s candidate is Abdul Qadir Khosa and PTI candidate is son of Zulfiqar Khosa, Saif Khosa.