SIALKOT: After the disqualification of Khawaja Muhammad Asif by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the PML-N is facing the daunting task of finding his replacement who could counter its opponents in the politics of the city and the area.
The local political circles are keenly observing every move of the PML-N as it has landed in dire straits after the apparent ouster of a seasoned politician who stood by it in hard times during the Musharraf regime when many of party bigwigs had abandoned it.
Some local independent political observers think the disqualification would not remove Asif from the politics of Sialkot as he would now play a role of the ‘king maker’ during the 2018 general elections.
The PML-N is reportedly looking for ‘potential’ alternative to Asif while local party leadership is having the view that no one from the sitting MNAs and MPAs could take his place in Sialkot’s politics and fill the gap being left by him.
According to reports, there is nobody in the Asif family, including his wife and son, interested in politics.
The local leaders of the PMLN say that central and provincial leadership of the party is considering the name of export and business tycoon Riazuddin Sheikh as replacement of Asif. Mr Sheikh is stated be most influential person from the party leaders in Sialkot and popular among social and business circles. He is the younger brother of the late Ejaz Ahmed Sheikh, the provincial minister for labour and manpower in the PML-N government before the Musharraf coup.
Ejaz remained associated with the PML-N since the start of his career in 1985 and he was elected as MPA on the party ticket for five times from 1985 to 1996. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had visited Sialkot in July last year to inaugurate Riazuddin Sheikh Business and Trade Centre at the chamber of commerce and industry as well. Mr Sheikh is also stated to close to Asif. However, the party’s replacement of Asif would be done with consultation and consent of Khawaja Asif.
Meanwhile, the PML-N’s local leadership has termed Asif’s disqualification a pity and alleged political revenge by the judiciary against their party. Hundreds of the party workers took out rallies in Sialkot city on Friday to lodge their protest against the disqualification of Asif.
On the other hand, PTI leaders, Umer Dar, Usman Dar, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Dr John Mehboob, termed the IHC decision a victory of truth and a milestone in PTI’s struggle against corrupt rulers and politicians. Hundreds of jubilant PTI workers continued celebrating this disqualification on Friday. They also distributed sweets and danced to the loud drumbeats in various parts of the city.