LAHORE – Constituency Profile: NA-52
In NA-52, the battle lines have been drawn. This epic is between the virtual lord and master of what is dubbed as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Larkana, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and an up and coming pretender, the PML-Q’s Raja Basharat.
And thrown into the cauldron for good measure is the property czar Malik Riaz – lending support to Raja to cut Rawalpindi’s real Chaudhry to size. And there is yet more of an assortment, the combine quite potent, that is lined up against Nisar, making it the battle of his life in a place where he has forever reigned supreme.
For the moment Nisar has an upper hand, thanks to the martial familial background, access to the power corridors and men that mater in Pakistani politics – not to mention the resources to burn.
Nisar is taking no chances though, for he is contesting from as many as two other national and as many provincial constituencies in the district: NA-42, NA-53, PP-6 and PP-7.
This speaks volumes of Rawalpindi district’s politics where the Sharifs have put all their eggs in Nisar’s basket, much to the dismay of other powerful groups inside the ‘N’, who feel let down. Some local analysts also interpret this as Nisar feeling insecure in the changing dynamic of Rawalpindi.
The PTI tsunami has not landed here as yet, and its candidate Col Ajmal is not creating any waves. Other parties like JI exist only on the margins. For the best part, it remains a duel between friends turned foes, Ch Nisar and Raja Basharat. The former is already well known, and the latter, a former ‘Q’ provincial minister, is earning his spurs in political circles for being cool and clear headed. Being an old hand of the area, he is well-versed with the rough and tumble of local politics.
The three-weeks given for campaigning have commenced, yet the area is not really abuzz. Publicly the contestants are confined to corner meetings, but behind the scene, cutthroat wheeling and dealing is going on.
Without any doubt, NA-52 is the safest for the PML-N with Nisar having a stellar record here since 1985 – then NA-52 and NA-53 were part of NA-40. Again for the last 10 years, he is winning from this constituency with huge margins against either PPP’s nominee or Q’s Rajas.
In 2008, when Nisar gifted this safe seat to Capt. Safdar, Nawaz’s son-in–law, the latter cruise to a win in the by-elections, albeit never setting foot in the constituency again.
Nisar is fully embedded at the centre of political life of this area, having advantages which his rival has never enjoyed. By virtue of his clout with the Sharifs, he virtually was the de facto chief minister, getting development funds without any difficulty. The local influentials and party workers looked up to him for their thana/katcheri issues.
Again, Nisar has a national stature though he did not do much credit to the office of Leader of the Opposition. And he let down the party when the caretakers were being negotiated, and Ishaq Dar stole much of his limelight.
He will also benefit from the huge goodwill the ’N’ enjoys in the urban Punjab.
But the going for Raja Basharat is not that bad either, and his stock became bullish the moment the PPP decided to support him as a part of wider seat adjustment with ‘Q’.
The analysts believe that election in NA-52 would be a test case of how much difference the PPP-PML (Q) combine could make on the ‘D’ Day.
Raja is primed to exploit the new arrangement to his favour. In close contact with the PPP’s local leaders, he is acutely aware the difference it can make. And here both the PPP and ‘Q’ leaders and workers seemingly are jelling well together. In 2008, Nisar bagged over 97,000 votes while Raja Nasir, Basharat’s sibling, 55,000 and PPP’s Raja Khurram 38,000 were second and third. The political analysts say if the PPP and ‘Q’ votes are combined, Nisar can be trumped.
The local workers say that with the seat adjustment between the PPP-PML (Q) could give a new lease of life to the Rajas waiting for their turn since long besides making it a lively two-way contest.
The jilted JI, for long the ‘N’ ally but denied its pound of flesh this time round, too has now trained its guns on the Sharifs. The JI’s candidate secured about 16000 votes in the 2002 elections from here. As such Raja’s camp is all smiles to see JI and PML (N) now face to face in the constituency.
Rawalpindi district is also the scene of much squabbling in the ‘N’ with various groups working at cross-purposes often trying to checkmate each other. The groupings have weakened the party as it faces the giants like Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid.
Apart from the tug of war in ‘N’ itself, the other important groups that matter in Rawalpindi politics have all joined forces against Nisar. The important factions are those of Haji Nawaz Khokhar, Ch Tanvir and Raja Basharat. With such potent alliances arrayed against him, will Nisar be able be prevail is too close to call.