ISLAMABAD – Spirits are high as young campaigners do their best to win two constituencies on behalf of their jailed father Qamar-ul-Islam Raja.
18-year-old Uswa Islam Raja, who has recently completed her A-levels examination, along with her 12-year-old brother Muhammad Salar Islam Raja is being forced to run an election campaign in lieu of their father Qamar-ul-Islam Raja, who was arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on corruption charges in “Clean Water Provision Project”. Qamar-ul-Islam was arrested only a day after he was awarded a party ticket from provincial assembly’s constituency PP-10 and national assembly’s constituency NA-59 by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) against its distant leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
“We are enjoying the campaign because of a tremendous response given by the people of our constituency”, Mr. Salar expressed, adding: “Residents of our area are conducting an election campaign by themselves while my sister and I are continuously attending public gatherings across the constituency.”
The siblings informed further that Mr. Salar is attending general public gatherings while Uswa Islam is focusing on female gatherings of the constituency.
Responding to a question regarding Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Salar said: “I had met him a few years ago, but now I have realised how cruel he is with people of his constituency.”
While declaring his father’s arrest political victimization, he said: “Our father is being targeted because he stood for a narrative; “Give respect to Vote” otherwise he saved millions of rupees in same project for which he is accused of corruption.”
“There were around twenty boards of directors in the company but my father was arrested alone”, Mr. Salar defended Raja Qamar-ul-Islam, saying: “Zaeem Qadri was also accused of corruption in the same case but he was relaxed after he left PML-N.”
Meanwhile, Uswa Islam Raja while sharing her thoughts expressed faith in the people of their constituency and assured that they will vote for PML-N.
“We had a brief meeting with my father in jail, in which he reiterated that he will remain loyal to party chief Nawaz Sharif whatever the circumstances and advised us to hold electoral front and focus on election campaign”, she informed.
The siblings shared that they were not mentally prepared to lead the campaign and had not been involved in politics in the past. They were however glad that they could run the campaign because of being free from their curricular activities during school vacations.
Uswa Islam Raja informed further that the daughter of former premier Maryam Nawaz Sharif and several other party leaders contacted them and assured their full support.
“The national leaders of PML-N are expected to visit our constituency in the coming days to help us in campaign as former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addressed a public meeting last week”, she told.
A total of 10 candidates are in the run for NA-59 including Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who is contesting as independent, Ghulam Sarwar Khan of PTI, Raja Qamar-ul-Islam of PML-N and Chaudhry Kamran Ali Khan of PPP.
However, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is apparently leading the race because of the arrest of his opponent Qamar-ul-Islam Raja and a favourable delimitation whereas PTI’s candidate Ghulam Sarwar Khan has also failed to create momentum in NA-59 so far.
Two provincial assembly seats PP-10, PP-12 and four union councils of PP-13 fall under NA-59. PTI picked a women candidate named Naveed Sultana from PP-10 while political pundits declare this decision as a walkover to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
But, a strong contest is expected on aforementioned provincial assembly seat between Chaudhry Nisar and Qamar-ul-Islam Raja because later is mainly focusing on this seat from where he had successfully reached to Punjab assembly twice in 2008 and 2013.
The position in PP-12 will not be very comfortable for Chaudhry Nisar because most of the union councils in the constituency are same as they were in past PP-6 from where he won the election in 2008 with a very close margin.
Interestingly, the same candidate, Wasiq Qayum Abbasi of PTI is again in front of Mr. Chaudhry from the constituency.
However, the four union councils of PP-13 are mostly clear to the extent of National Assembly vote for Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.