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PML-N workers in Gilgit-Baltistan. PHOTO: ONLINE
PML-N workers in Gilgit-Baltistan. PHOTO: ONLINE

Rifts emerge in PML-N ahead of GBLA-6 by-polls

Published: May 8, 2016

GILGIT: The decision to award a ticket to the Gilgit-Baltistan governor’s son for the by-elections on GBLA-6 Hunza has ruffled many feathers among Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders. Some believe these tensions could give progressive leader Baba Jan an opportunity to make inroads.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif awarded a party ticket to Salim Khan, the son of G-B Governor Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, for the polls in the constituency. He ignored the advice of local party leaders in this regard. The prime minister reportedly took the decision based on his close ties with the G-B governor.

Seeds of discontent

On Friday, the PML-N leaders from Hunza turned up at the press club to submit their resignations. However, they retracted their decision at the last minute after receiving a call from G-B Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, who is also the regional president of the party.

“Rehman has requested us to wait for two days,” an insider privy to the development told The Express Tribune on Saturday. “He has assured that our grievances will be [addressed].”

However, Amin Sher, a veteran PML-N leader from Hunza, decided to go against Rehman’s advice and tendered his resignation. He will now contest the polls as an independent candidate.

“Enough is enough,” said Sher who was PML-N divisional general secretary before his resignation. “We can’t tolerate injustice anymore.”

According to Sher, the governor had repeatedly exploited people and treated them like slaves. “Times have changed now,” he said.

He also took a swipe at Rehman for “being unable to [stand up for] the interests of workers who spent their lives for the party’s cause”.

Iman Shah, another candidate who is contesting the by-polls on a PML-N ticket, said the party was closely monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party is all geared up for the polls. The party has awarded a ticket for the by-elections to Wazir Baig. The candidate was speaker of the G-B Assembly during PPP’s tenure in the region from 2009 to 2014.

Chance for Baba Jan

There is a strong likelihood that Awami Workers Party’s Baba Jan, who is keenly eyeing the constituency, will capitalise on the rift within PML-N.

“This is a good opportunity for Baba Jan to fight back, although there is no level-playing field,” said Amin Beg, an activist. “There are [growing] demands to hold elections under [the supervision of] the judiciary and social activists, bar associations and human rights campaigners should be invited.”

Jan, who is serving a life term, was a runner-up in the previous elections won by Mir Ghazanfar Ali.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2016.

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