Infighting, rebel groups hurt PML-N as Islamabad goes to vote


Over 2,300 candidates in the race for LG polls; PML-N and PTI go head to head with 506 and 479 candidates; disgruntled PML-N leaders trade accusations with party officials; PTI may have violated ECP’s code of conduct with Imran Khan’s rally, PML-N with development works ahead of polls;

Candidates of all political parties made last-ditch efforts to convince voters to vote in their favour by carrying out door-to-door canvassing ahead of the first-ever local government (LG) elections in the federal capital to be held today, (Monday).

Heated campaigns went long into the night even though time for the campaign ended at 12AM on Saturday night.

The real electoral battle is expected to be fought between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and its arch rival Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), as the rest of the political parties including PPP are nowhere to be seen, reveals a survey conducted by Pakistan Today.

While the first and second phases of LG polls in Punjab have been smooth sailing for the most part for the PML-N, local government elections in Islamabad can become a nightmare for the ruling party, experts say, pointing to visible fissure within the local cadres.

Many residents of the city also believe that the PML-N could be up against it facing not only its own rebel group headed by Ashraf Gujjar, but also the PTI which has been led in an aggressive campaign by PTI’s local MNA Asad Umer.

The successful public gathering organised by PTI at Tramari Chowk, which was addressed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan was a clear indication of the party’s popularity in the capital.

Meanwhile, the PML-N has not been sitting on its hands either. They appointed Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry as State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) ahead of the election, which was seen by many as an attempt to influence the polls, as defeat in the federal capital could overshadow the party’s overwhelming victory across Punjab.

The PML-N’s tried and tested method for influencing the polls ­ the sudden burst of developmental work in districts that are set to go to polls shortly ­ was on display in the capital also, especially the blacktopping of roads and streets in the city in clear violation of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s code of conduct.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Malik Shuja, a disgruntled PML-N local leader, said that there was widespread disenchantment among the workers and office-bearers of the ruling party over the fact that honest and genuine leaders of the party were being ignored, while looters and plunderers had been given the party’s reins.

He alleged that Malik Ibrar and Anjum Aqeel were purposely put in the ticket-awarding committee for Islamabad LG polls because they were close to Dr Tariq Fazal.

Shuja said that local leaders were not going to throw their weight behind Dr Tariq Fazal’s election strategy, because he awarded tickets to candidates of the Khokhar group instead of what he called deserving candidates. He said that he and his supporters would launch a campaign against him for damaging the party, as he had resigned to the fact that the infighting would severely hurt the party in the polls.

Leader of PML-N’s rebel faction in Islamabad Ashraf Gujjar voiced strong resentment over sidelining the sincere and genuine leaders of the party in the LG polls for the sake of accommodating what he dubbed ‘thieves, looters and land grabbers’.

Lashing out at Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Gujjar questioned how a person of poor circumstance could become billionaire overnight without any visible business. He alleged that Fazal was the head of the land mafia and had deprived a number of poor people of their land.

He accused Fazal of compromising on party’s interests merely to advance his real estate business and said that he had written a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and had informed him in this regard.

However, when this scribe asked about his future course of action, Gujjar seemed undecided, “Let elections to be held first,” he said. “Then the penal will decide if we’re going to support the PML-N.”

When contacted, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry termed the allegations leveled against him by the rebel group’s leader Ashraf Gujjar as baseless and unfounded and said that after several brainstorming meetings, the party awarded tickets to the best available candidates.

He said that it is a natural phenomenon that when somebody does not get a party ticket, they resort to such allegations, but that it is next to impossible to accommodate everyone.

To a question about seat adjustment with Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), he said that several rounds of talks were held with the JI’s leadership, but no consensus had been evolved in this regard.

PML-N has fielded 506 candidates in the local government elections in the federal capital, while the PTI 479 candidates in the field.

PPP only has 81 candidates which are less than even JI which has 164 candidates.

The details released by the ECP show that 972 independent candidates are also contesting the polls. The PML-Q only has 12 candidates while the JUI-F has 13.

The Pakistan People’s Party (Workers), led by Naheed Khan, has only one candidate in UC-35. Likewise, the Sunni Itehad Council has also fielded one candidate. However, the little known, ‘Tehreek Tahafuz-i-Pakistan’ has 66 candidates in the 50 UCs of the capital.

The National Party that leads the coalition government in Balochistan has a total of 16 candidates. Other small parties contesting the polls are: Awami Workers Party (15 candidates), Pasban Party (10), Qaumi Awami Tehreek (11) and Nazaria Pakistan Party (9).