Bahawalpur profile: In the land of the nawabs


The people of Bahawalpur are drawn to personalities. They often remember those that left an impact, and discard those that failed to do so. During the previous electoral cycles, the five National Assembly seats have seen the likes of PPP, PML-N, and PML-Q candidates emerge victorious, all backed by strong families.

This time around, analysts predict stiff competition amongst these parties, with the Bahawalpur National Awami Party (BNAP) also in the ring.

Bahawalpur’s National Assembly seats – NA-183, NA-184, NA-185, NA-186 and NA-187 – encompass not only a large geographical area, but also a large set of values, political beliefs and opinions.

An Ameer’s effect

Politics in NA-183 differs from other constituencies, mainly due to the incredible sway of the Ameer of Bahawalpur, Nawab Salauddin Abbasi. He has been elected as an MNA from this area more than three times and is firmly supported by the Sipra, Qureshi, Gillani, Maher, Raees and Abbasi families. Analysts claim that for any candidate to win the seat, his backing is absolutely necessary.

The Ameer’s Bahawalpur National Awami Party (BNAP) has awarded its ticket to Makhdoom Syed Samiul Hassan Gillani. Interestingly, he will face his toughest competition from his brother, Makhdoom Syed Ali Hassan Gillani, who is contesting on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) platform. There are 15 people contesting this seat, but observers say that the key players the Gilani brothers and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate Arif Aziz Shaikh.

Personality politics

In NA-184, a rural area, politics centres on personalities. Communities are divided, and no single community can claim to change the result. For instance, the influential Malik Aamir Yar Warran defeated PML-N and the PPP even when he ran independently in the past. After he was disqualified on the grounds of holding a fake degree, his wife Khadeeja Aamir, was elected as MNA.

The major players are PPP’s Khadeeja Amir and PML-N’s Mian Najibuddin Awaisi. The same game of personality politics permeates NA-185, an area inhabited by Punjabis, Seraikis and Muhajirs. BNAP has fielded Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik, who won the 2002 election, and the PML-N has fielded Muhammad Baleeghur Rehman, who won in 2008. Both enjoy much support, and will make this an exciting match.

A tale of two families

The politics of NA-186 revolves around just two families: The Peerzadas and the Gardezis. Since the creation of Pakistan, these two have been contesting against one another. Mian Riaz Hussain Peerzada, who has been on a winning streak, is contesting once again, this time on PML-N’s platform. He has an impressive vote bank and has constantly been in touch with the people.

Although there are 10 candidates fighting for the seat, Mian Riaz’s main rival is PML-Q’s Tariq Cheema, one of the founding members of the PPP, who jumped ship. Cheema has considerable influence in his constituency. And yet, despite Cheema’s sway, political forecasters see another victory for Peerzada looming ahead.

Jats vs Araeens

NA-187 is famous for the traditional competition between two communities: Jats and Araeens. Although there are 11 candidates in the run, Tariq Cheema of the Jats, and PML-N’s Chaudhry Saud Majeed of the Araeen group will face off against one another.

Saud has an illustrious political background, but this constituency is known as Cheema’s home ground, and he has maintained his hold in this area for the last 25 years.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2013.

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