Taxila-Surrounded by mighty Margalla Hills along with valley of ancient Buddhist Civilisation, the area which witnessed different battles is now eagerly awaiting to see the political battlefield as two arch rivals are vying for PP-7, Taxila Valley.

Sound of drum beats filled the air and slogan shouting by supporters kept the morale of candidates soaring who are inaugurating their respective election offices in every hook and corner of the city round the clock to fetch the maximum voters.

The by-election of PP-7 is a two-horse race and it appears to be a matter of political life and death for the arch rivals — PML-N and PTI — as both are trying to win the seat at all costs. It has observed that hectic election campaign is underway for the by-polls and electioneering continues across the city until late night. After going through the rigmarole of ticket allotments, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) have chalked out elaborate schedules of rallies in both the rural and urban areas. The main battle will be between PML-N and the PTI. Both big wigs have termed the by-elections a “test” of their popularity among the masses and during a visit to different constituencies by this correspondent, the ruling party was seen using all tactics to win the by-election which is do or die situation for the PTI and PML-N.

The PML-N and Sarwar Khan Group have always been archrivals in this area of Potohar region; however, political observers say this time it will not be an easy job for the old guards as PTI, an emerging political force, is also making inroads into the area. Meanwhile, different political parties and mainstream local pressure groups have also accelerated their preparations for the forthcoming local government elections by escalating making and breaking alliance and loyalties of different groups.

The changing role of various castes, ethnic groups, religious factions and turncoats has changed the meaning and spirit of the psychology. For voters, who are ditched every time, democracy has become an illusion. The electioneering has proved one thing that hypocrisy is the hallmark of the day. Lying has become a business. Everybody, voters with the candidates and contenders with the voters, is lying with one another. Bitter foes of the past are now sitting on one platform while different political organisations, engaged in meaningless diatribes, are not speaking about their respective manifestoes. They are involved in blame games. The political observers say that all the mavericks present at the meeting are the real gravediggers of their parties.

This costly exercise has blurred the line between foes and friends. Those, who were against each other in the past, are now sitting on one platform to bar the entry of any new intruder into their ruling club. They have ganged up against a political novice, trying to snatch a place in the power corridor.

The local alignments and groupings are above the party politics. Haji Dildar group who has strong vote bank and stronghold in Northern part of rural area which has contested 2013 elections from PPP platform and Fasial Iqbal Group which also contested 2008 general elections as independent candidate have put their weight behind PML-N candidate Umer Farooq while Syed Riaz Shah, who has strong influential vote bank of Saadat family has also parted ways with PML-N and joined PTI candidate bandwagon. The PTI candidate would also get youth pro-change votes across the constituency. 

Ch Kamran Aslam of PPP is as usual in the field. His presence shows that PPP is still alive. On the other hand, Jamaat-i-Islami, a coalition partner of the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has not so far announced an alliance with the party in area as the party is in consultation with both rivals. The JUI-F local chapter President Hakim Mohammad Saad and General Secretary Afzal Janjua also announced support to PML-N candidate in upcoming by-polls and asked their voters to poll votes in favour of PML_N candidate.

Sarwar Khan from Pind Nousheri represents the Khattar clan that is largely entrenched in adjoining areas of Taxila and Chakri. 

Observers say the PTI has a psychological advantage over the ruling PML-N, having won a national assembly and two provincial assembly seats in general elections as well as Cantt board and local bodies polls in the areas where elections are now going to take place. Since 2013 elections, the political landscape of the constituency has completely changed after Sarwar Khan joined the bandwagon of the PTI. His vote bank, popularity and image have also increased after he left PML-Q. The ruling party may not be able to have a clean sweep like it did in the recently-held by-elections held across the country and neck to neck contest is expected here. Clan affiliations will play an important role in deciding the fate of the candidates in PP-7, comprising mostly rural areas. Presently, PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan enjoys strong position among the citizens. There is no gainsaying that Khan has the potential of pulling crowds. He has a good number of followings in all the major families and also the PML-N candidates fielded for the two provincial assembly seats would further boost his vote bank. Moreover, the swing vote may turn out to be a deciding factor in the outcome of the September 26 fight in certain constituencies but it is anybody’s guess as to which of the principal parties will be able to manipulate it to its side.