Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan seems to have outmanoeuvred his political opponents in Mianwali district, his hometown, and has acquired an invincible position by reconciling the two Niazi sub-tribes- Sharmankhel and Wattakhel.
Khan, who belongs to the Sharmankhel tribe, has been successful in luring son of his archrival late Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, Amjad Ali Khan Niazi, into the folds PTI. Sources said untiring efforts by Ayla Malik – the granddaughter of Nawab of Kalabagh- secured Mianwali’s constituency NA-72, Mianwali-II through Amjad Niazi’s inclusion in the PTI.
Though former chief minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif has also filed his nomination papers to challenge Imran Khan from adjoining constituency NA-71, it remains unclear whether a great dual would follow in the time to come. Though political manoeuvring and electioneering is in full swing in Mianwali, with political heavyweights from various political parties flexing their muscles, PTI seems to be placed better as a force in the district especially after Amjad Niazi’s support.
The move has threatened the hold of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in the political mainstream, and it is widely viewed that the results of the upcoming general elections would be surprising and perhaps change the political fabric altogether.
A well-managed election campaign has been launched by PTI senior leader and former MNA Ayla Malik who is looking after PTI’s campaign in Mianwali.
All political parties including the PTI are busy in electioneering, with new offices popping up around corners and wall-chalking on the rise to muster support against opponent groups. Shops, restaurants and several buildings have been painted with flags and slogans of various political parties.
The picturesque Mianwali district covers an area of 5,840 square km. The district consists of various towns including Kalabagh, Isa Khel, Kundian, Paikhel, Piplan, Kamar Mushani, Mochh, Swans, Rokhri, Harnauli, Musa Khel, Alluwali, Wan Bhachran, Daud Khel, Uttra Kalan and the district capital, Mianwali city.
There are two national assembly and four provincial assembly seats up for grabs and there are 7, 48,692 registered voters out of which 4,09,230 are male and 3,39,462 female voters.
The constituency consists of various towns, including Kundian, Piplan, Kamar Mushani, Rokhri, Harnauli, Alluwali, Wan Bhachran, Daud Khel and Uttra Kalan.
Previously, there was a single constituency in Mianwali from where either Nawab of Kalabagh or Maulana Abdus Sattar Khan Niazi was elected, with individuals wielding more support than any particular political party.
However, during former president General (r) Musharraf’s era, Mianwali was divided into two constituencies for the National Assembly (NA) – NA-71 and NA-72.
In the 2008 elections, Humair Hayat Rokhari succeeded from NA-72, bagging 49,294 votes as an independent candidate, later joining PML-N. Close contenders were Dr Sher Afgan Niazi, who contested the election on a PML-Q ticket and received 46,931 votes while Inamullah Khan Niazi, who contested on a PML-N ticket, received 44,868 votes.
Rokhari would now face the challenge of PTI nominee Amjad Ali Khan Niazi.
Though Amjad has been welcomed into PTI across Mianwali, the Niazi family has not shown a great reaction. Three immediate cousins of Imran Khan – Saeedullah Niazi, Inamullah Niazi and Hafeezullah Niazi – have threatened to oppose the move while Saaedullah, who is former PTI Punjab president, has tendered his resignation from the party.
Inamullah wanted the PTI ticket from the concerned constituency and seems rather annoyed by the party decision to overlook him. He has decided to contest elections from NA-72 against Amjad Khan Niazi, as an independent candidate, whereas Shoukat Pervez Khan would contest election on a PPP ticket. However, political pundits downplay Inamullah’s revolt and say he cannot damage PTI’s prospects as he spends most of his time in Lahore and Islamabad.
In addition, the inclusion of Amjad Khan Niazi has made the party a force to reckon with, because the WattaKhel tribe has a strength of around 40,000 voters, hinting at the possibility that Amjad may win the seat with a handsome lead.
Owing to the constantly changing loyalties, a clear picture of the would-be candidates from PP-45 is a difficult task. The PML-N is mulling giving a ticket to outgoing MPA Ali Haider Noor Khan Niazi, a close relative of Nawaz Sharif, whereas Gul Hamid Rokhari, who has already joined PML-N, is also in the run.
PML-N, therefore, faces a predicament on the award of a ticket in this provincial assembly constituency. If the party gives away its ticket to Ali Haider, Rokhari would most probably contest election as an independent candidate.
If the party fails to field a consensus candidate it would divide the PML-N vote bank, favouring its opponents in the constituency.
However, the PTI has fielded Malik Ahmad Khan Bhacher as a consensus candidate and it appears to be an uphill task to defeat him.
Another candidate from the constituency is Sajjad Bhacher, who would contest election as an independent candidate, but is not seen as a threat to either side because he is not a popular figure in the region.
The PTI is gaining ground in the constituency especially after Muhammad Sibtain Khan joined the party. He contested the last election on a PML-Q ticket and bagged 27,319 votes.
The outgoing MPA Muhammad Feroz Joyia, who fought the 2008 election as an independent candidate and got 34,197 votes and later joined PML-N, was thought to be a tough contender for the constituency. However, the PTI by fielding Sibtain Khan as a consensus candidate for the constituency has almost made it impossible for Joyia to win the seat again. Sibtain’s and Bacher’s families have a great vote bank in the area. WattaKhel support to both provincial assembly candidates also highly increases PTI’s chances to secure the complete district.