PML-N’s Khawaja Asif and PTI’s Usman Dar are going to be competing for the NA-73 constituency of Sialkot. With the former recovering from a recent disqualification and the latter hailing from an important political background in Sialkot, this one promises to be a hard-fought victory.
Party – Pakistan Muslim League Noon (PML-N)
Highest Office Held – Minister For Foreign Affairs
Asif entered politics in 1991 when he was elected to the Senate as a PML-N candidate. In the general elections of 1993, he was elected to the National Assembly from Sialkot’s constituency. He was re-elected four more times, making this his sixth attempt. His latest tenure as Minister for foreign affairs began in August 2017 and ended in April 2018. Prior to this, Asif has filled the post for Ministry of Defence, Water, and Power during Nawaz Sharif’s 2013-17 term as PM.
Khawaja Asif is certainly not lacking in experience. His manifesto includes the ideals “vote for development” and “respect the public mandate”. He has stressed upon the work done by Nawaz Sharif in overcoming load-shedding and ‘restoring peace to the country’. He is reported to have said that people will remember this developmental work and take it into account while voting. He seems to be relying heavily on past achievements.
Party – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI)
Highest Office Held – Senior member of PTI
Usman Dar began his political career with PTI in 2011. He was PTI’s candidate in the 2013 elections for the NA-110 Sialkot constituency. He was one of those who contested the election results in support of Imran Khan’s rigging allegations. In 2015, he was made a member of PTI’s Central Advisory Council. He is said to be Khan’s right-hand man.
He has not only political clout but also a family legacy that ties him to Sialkot; his father was the Nazim of the city from 2005-09. Being a strong supporter of Imran Khan’s ideals, Dar, if he comes into power, will be following policies of economic and industrial revival, with a focus on Pakistan’s ‘green revolution’.
Both have strong backgrounds. However, a factor that may provide a difficult obstacle is the power of the Baradari in Sialkot. Khawaja Asif has unerring support from the Kashmiri Baradari. However, his recent disqualification and the party’s overall disadvantage due to the verdict facing Nawaz may work against Asif.
Then again, Usman Dar lost last time and the Supreme Court dismissed the rigging accusations facing Asif. This suggests Khawaja Asif has some major backing from higher-ups, partly owing to his long political tenure. This will definitely be a closely fought battle.