All eyes on PTI’s ‘gamble’ in NA-154

MULTAN: NA-154 (previously NA-151) has become the most important constituency of Multan where Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has taken its biggest gamble by fielding a feudal lord Ahmad Hussain Deharr instead of its earlier candidate Mian Muhammad Suleiman Qureshi, who is now picked by PML-N.

This is one of the nine constituencies in which PTI has finalised tickets at the eleventh hour and party picked Deharr instead of Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan. Bosan, engaged in politics of the area for the last 50 years, was earlier the candidate of PML-N and was promised a ticket by PTI on the condition of leaving PML-N. But on the last day, PTI gave a ticket to Deharr on the insistence of Shah Mahmood Qureshi. PML-N also did not give a ticket to Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan because he had disassociated himself with the party.

PTI and PML-N to face off in Multan

As much as 70% of the area of this constituency falls under the rural category that includes gardens, farms and agricultural land owned by feudal lords. This is one of the constituencies of Multan where the literacy rate is very low and vote is divided on the basis of loyalties to the feudal lords. The total number of registered voters in this constituency is 385,233 including 208,008 male voters and 177,225 female voters.

The political future of Multan very much depends on the fate of this constituency as the real estate tycoons have made a huge investment of over Rs500 billion for building residential colonies and roads. Although it is a rural area it is highly motivated towards urbanisation. Various important projects including DHA’s housing scheme is also a part of this constituency.

The main reason behind the tussle between Jahangir Tareen and Shah Mahmood Qureshi was the provision of a ticket to Bosan or Deharr. Tareen supported Bosan while Qureshi supported Deharr. Qureshi tribe has a centuries-old feud with the Bosan clan in Multan. In general elections of 2008, Ahmad Hussain Deharr won from PP-200, however, due to the intense conflict with the Gillanis, Deharr left PPP and joined PML-N. After leaving PML-N, Deharr has joined PTI. He also enjoys the support of industrialists.

Sources said voters of NA-154 have rejected Ahmad Hussain Deharr and wrote an open letter to the PTI leadership. Slogans against Deharr’s nomination were written on his election campaign posters. The letter raised questions on picking up a candidate who was allegedly involved in the misuse of funds, nepotism, and selling of government jobs.

Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan is now contesting polls as an independent candidate. Meanwhile, PTI South Punjab Information Secretary Malik Asim Deharr extended support to Sikandar Hayat Bosan, opposing his own brother Malik Ahmad Hussain Deharr in NA-154.

Mainstream political parties and misogyny

On the other hand, PML-N picked Mian Muhammad Suleiman Qureshi, who won 40,000 votes on a  PTI ticket in the last general elections. Since the elections of 1985, two feudal families, Bosans and Gillanis, have been competing against each other. Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani also became prime minister from this constituency after the elections of 2008. PPP also considered this constituency its only stronghold in South Punjab. Abdul Qadir Gillani, son of Yousuf Raza Gillani is contesting polls for the seat of MNA. In the by-elections of 2016, PPP won only one seat of chairman from this constituency (UC-67) in three main districts of South Punjab mainly Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur. Now, PPP has nominated the same candidate Shakil Labar from PP-216. In PP-211, PPP candidate Ali Haider Gillani is vying for sympathy votes in all his public addresses. The second candidate of PPP is Amir Labar in PP-212.

In PP-211, PML-N has picked Amir Bappi against Shaukat Bosan. In PP-212, PML-N picked Shehzad Maqbool Bhutta. PTI’s Khalid Javed Waraich and Saleem Labar are contesting polls in PP 211 and 212 respectively.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2018.

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