Election 2018: Islamabad a tough battleground


Zubair Qureshi


Former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is all set to challenge Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan from NA-53, Islamabad in the general elections taking place on July 25, 2018. For this purpose the former premiere has already launched his campaign. Imran Khan, too set off his election campaign from the Convention Center Islamabad with an electrifying address to his workers and supporters on Saturday, June 30. Khan is hopeful to make a clean sweep from this constituency, however, as the candidates are changed in this constituency so have the circumstances and this time voters are not going to blindly vote for either of the two. Pakistan Observer in an interaction with a large number of voters from this constituency, came to know about the grievances of voters against the two major political parties—PML-N and PTI—and their candidates. PTI’s candidate Asad Umar from NA-54 and Imran Khan from NA-53 are largely seen as ‘outsiders’. They don’t even know the names of the streets and sectors of the constituency they are vying to win, complain the ordinary voters. According to many, Asad Umar during the last parliamentary stint betrayed and ditched his voters and PTI’s workers and supporters had to face tough questions from the residents of the city regarding availability of their MNA to address their complaints.
Ex-Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi too is seen as an ‘outsider’ since his original constituency is NA-57 and ordinary voters in NA-53 are in a fix whom to vote of these two. Most probably both of them will quit their seats from this constituency after winning their seats from their original/native constituencies, say the voters. “We are taken for granted here in NA-53,” said Muhammad Yaqoob, a local trader of the NA-53 and in the fight of the bigwigs aspirations of common people will be bulldozed. Ayesha, a teacher in a FG model school was also wary of the PML-N and PTI candidates as being high profile ‘they will least pay attention to the voters of their constituencies,” said she.
In NA-54, PTI’s Asad Umar unlike the previous candidate of the PML-N is going to face Anjum Aqeel Khan, a local and a well-connected political worker of the PML-N. Asad Umar’s image of being an outsider can make things a bit problematic for him as Anjum Aqeel is well aware of the problems of his constituency and is always available to his voters in case of some issue/problem that arises for them.
In NA-52, PML-N’s former Minister for CADD, Dr Tariq Fazal is seen as having an edge over his opponent PTI’s Raja Khurram Nawaz who is given preference over the former candidate for the PTI Ilyas Mehrban. In NA-52, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has awarded ticket to Afzal Khokar, uncle of Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, who was the Naib Nazim of the Rawalpindi district in the local government system introduced by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Although PPP’s candidates are also in the run but their presence is more or less invisible and they go unnoticed in public gatherings and parties. From NA-53, as many as 36 candidates are contesting elections, the highest number of candidates in this election for a National Assembly constituency. Besides Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Imran Khan of PTI, All Pakistan Muslim League’s Dr Muhammad Amjad is also a candidate from this constituency with election symbol Eagle. A little known PPP’s Syed Sibtul Haider, the brother of former Senate chairman Syed Nayyar Bukhari is also a candidate from this constituency. PTI-Gulalai’s Chief Ayesha Gulalai, PML-N’s disgruntled leader Syed Zafar Ali Shah and MMA’s Mian Muhammad Aslam are also vying NA seat from this constituency.
From NA-54, twenty-eight candidates are contesting polls. Prominent among them are Anjum Aqeel Khan, Asad Umar, former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s younger brother Raja Imran Ashraf (PPP) and a PML-N disgruntled candidate Hafeezur Rehman Tipu.
With a population of 2.2 million, Islamabad has 765,348 registered voters in its three constituencies, including both rural and urban areas. NA-52, a predominantly rural constituency has a total number of 231,256 registered voters and will have 245 polling stations and 835 polling booths. NA-53 with 311,529 registered voters has the largest number of voters in Islamabad and will have 325 polling stations and 1104 polling booths. NA-54, the most urban constituency of the three is also the smallest constituency and has 218,697 registered voters. This constituency will have 216 polling stations and 754 polling.

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