Islamabad: Although over 12,500 candidates are vying for national and provincial assembly seats as Pakistan goes to polls on Wednesday, all eyes are on the constituencies of the three main players of the July 25 election – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
A former world cup winning leader turned politician, Imran has become the main opposition leader in recent years.
His party, PTI, founded in 1996 has governed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but long had to settle for a handful of seats nationally in the last election.
The PTI chief is up against former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (PML-N), Ammar Rashid (AWP), Syed Sibghatullah Bukhari (PPP) and Ayesha Gulalai from NA-53 Islamabad 2.
He is also in the run from (NA 243) Karachi East 2 and will face Shahjahan (PML-N), Syeda Shahla Raza (PPP), Muhammad Usama Razi (MMA), Syed Ali Raza Abidi (MQM) and Syed Nawaz-ul-Huda (TLP).
Imran is also standing from (NA 131) Lahore 9 and is competing against former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique (PML-N), Asim Mehmood (PPP), Waqar Nadeem Waraich (MMA) and Syed Murtaza Hasan (TLP) among others.
The cricketer-turned-politician is vying for the (NA-95) Mianwali 1 seat against Obaid Ullah Khan (PML-N), Muhammad Khalid Khan (PPP), Amir Ullah (MMA) and Touqeer Ul Husnain Shah (TLP) among others.
Imran is contesting for (NA-35) Bannu against Saeeda Yasmeen Safdar (PPP), Abdul Samad Khan (PSP) and Mian Aslam (MMA) among others.
The younger brother of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz became President of the PML-N after the former’s ouster.
Shehbaz Sharif occupies a key position in politics, having spent more than 10 years as Chief Minister of Punjab, which represents over half the country’s population of 207 million.
Shehbaz is contesting the polls from (NA-3) Swat 2, (NA-132) Lahore 10, (NA-249) Karachi West 2, (NA-192) DG Khan 4, (PP-164) Lahore 21 and (PP-165) Lahore 22.
In NA-3, Shehbaz is contesting against Saleem Rehman (PTI), Sharyar Armizeb (PPP) and Abdul Karim Khan (ANP).
While he will be against Muhammad Mansha Sindhu (PPP), Samina Khalid Ghurki (PPPP), Haider Ali (MMA) and Amjad Naeem (TLP) in the NA-132 poll run.
In NA-249, Shehbaz is vying for the seat against Faisal Vawda (PTI), Qadir Khan Mandohel (PPPP), Syed Atta Ullah Shah (MMA) and Aslam Shah (MQM-P).
As for NA-192 DG Khan 4, Shehbaz is up against Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari (PTI), Sardar Muhammad Irfan Ullah Khosa (PPP), Syed Munir Hussain (TLP), Makhdoom Syed Ejaz Hussain Naqvi (Pakistan Justice And Democratic Party) and Ahmad Bakhsh (Allah Akbar Tehreek).
In PP-164 Lahore 21, the PML-N President is contesting against Yousuf Ali (PTI), Tahir Majeed (PPP), Muhammad Nazir (MMA) and Maryam Azhar (TLP) among others.
Shehbaz is battling against Muhammad Yousuf (PTI), Abdul Samad Khan (PPP), Amjad Naeem (TLP), Iftikhar Ahmed (Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Norani), Hafiz Muhammad Hamza (Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party) and others in PP-165 Lahore 22.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Bilawal’s mother Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim country, was assassinated in 2007. His grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, also a Prime Minister of Pakistan, was hanged in 1979.
At 29, Bilawal has little experience and the chance of election victory for his family’s PPP is deemed almost nil -though he could become kingmaker by joining forces with the PML-N or PTI, if either fail to win an outright majority. The task would be difficult for the scion of a family who once dominated Pakistani politics but whose party is now in decline, even challenged in their stronghold in Sindh.
Bilawal is contesting the first election of his political career from four constituencies, including Lyari NA-246 which is considered a PPP stronghold.
The Bhutto family scion will be battling for the NA-246 seat against Saleem Zia (PML-N), Abdul Shakoor Shaad (PTI), Moulana Noor-ul-Haq (MMA), Mehfooz Yaar Khan (MQM) and Ahmed (TLP).
The PPP chairman is also contesting from NA-8, Malakand and will be up against Amir Nawab (PML-N), Junaid Akbar (PTI), and Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan (MMA) among others.
In (NA 6) – Lower Dir 1, Bilawal will be facing Zahid Khan (ANP), Mehboob Shah (PTI), Maulana Asadullah (MMA) and Javed Akhtar Tajik (PML-N).
He is also standing for a National Assembly seat from (NA 200) Larkana 1 and will be against Halima Bhutto (PTI), Mehboob Ali (PSP) and Rashid Mehmood Soomro (MMA) among others.