LAHORE - Out of 141 total NA seats of Punjab, independent candidates have emerged stronger in 16 constituencies and have potential to make any upset in the election apparently between PML-N and PTI in the province.

Majority of the candidates contesting as independents for National Assembly seats of Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jhelum, Jhang, Vehari, Multan, Muzaffargarh, DG Khan and Rajanpur are disgruntled leaders of PML-N, however, few of them were ditched by the PTI in ticket distribution episodes.

The most interesting contest where independents are in a run is of Ch Nisar Ali Khan who is vying for two Rawalpindi seats. The former interior minister will face Engineer Qamarul Islam and Sardar Mumtaz Khan of PML-N in NA-59 and NA-63 respectively. The PTI has fielded Ghulam Sarwar Khan for both seats against Nisar. The PPP candidates are also in contest but the main match is expected between Nisar and the candidates of two main parties (PTI, PML-N).

A difficult situation has emerged in Jhelum’s NA-66 constituency where Ch Saqlain-led group of angry local leaders of PTI and PML-N are set to make a joint alliance against PTI’s nominee Ch Farrukh Altaf, ex-district nazim of Jhelum and cousin of Faward Ch, and PML-N’s Khadim Gurmala.

The position in Chakwal’s NA-64 is, though, yet to be cleared, but Sardar Ghulam Abbas might introduce his independent group in the election. The PTI has awarded ticket to Zulfiqar Dullah after Lahore High Court rejected Abbas and his nephew Sardar Aftab’s nomination papers. The PML-N has so far not finalised the ticket but reports claim Ghulam Abbas might prefer to bring an independent group. The decision of LHC was challenged by Abbas and likely to be announced on July 3.

The three independent heavyweights are in contest for three NA seats of Jhang and are considered strong candidates. The PML-N is not in a race in NA 114, 115 and 116 constituencies and main contest is among PTI, PPP, independents and leader of Rahe Haq Party. PPP’s stalwart Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, PTI’s Mehboob Sultan and a local leader Iftikhar Baloch’s daughter Alishah Iftar as an independent candidate are contesting in NA-114 while PTI’s Amir Sultan and Saima Akhtar Bharwana, a former MNA, and Amir Abbas Sial, son of former MNA Najaf Sial, are in a race in NA-116. Maulana Ahmed Ludhyanvi, a leader of banned outfit Jamaat Ahlesunnat Waljamaat, is a candidate of Rahe Haq Party, Ghulama Bibi Bharwana, former MNA, is contesting on PTI’s ticket while Sheikh Waqas, the former MNA, and Syeda Sughra Imam, the daughter of senior politician Syeda Abida Hussain, opted to go as independent candidates in NA-115.

Ayesha Nazir Jutt and Dr Arifa Nazir Jutt, the daughter of Nazir Jutt who is a wealthy individual and former MNA, opted to go to polls as independent candidates for Vehari’s two seats, NA-162 and 163, when PTI refused to award ticket to latter against Ishaq Khan Khakwani. Imran Khan’s party fielded district president Khalid Chohan against Ayesha at NA-162 and PML-N is yet to introduce its candidate for the seat. The PML-N fielded Sajjad Mehdi, the brother of Syed Mehdi Naseem, the former MNA and district Nazim, in NA 163.

The Sehar group in Layyah has announced to go to polls as independent in NA-187 following award of PTI ticket to Abdul Majeed Niazi, the former MPA from the area, and the group has the potential to upset the main parties.

Skindar Bosan is also expected to put a tough fight as an independent candidate against PTI’s Ahmed Dehar in NA-154, Multan.

Sultan Mehmood Hanjra and Qasim Hanjra are considered heavyweights and they refused PML-N tickets and are running as independent candidates in Muzaffargarh’s NA-181 and 182 against PTI’s Mustafa Khar and Tehmina Dasti. Awami Raj Party chief Jamshed Dasti is also racing for NA-182 seat.

Sardar Amjad Farooq Khosa opted to contest an independent candidate for NA-190 in DG Khan and is also considered a strong candidate against PTI’s Sardar Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan Khosa.

Sher Ali Gorchani and Dr Hafeez Darashaik also preferred to contest polls as independent though they were awarded PML-N tickets for Rajanpur’s NA-193 and 194 seats. Sardar Jaffar Khan Leghari and Sardar Hasanain Bahadur of PTI will contest election against both independents respectively.