‘We have our differences…contesting elections is the democratic thing to do’
LAHORE: Political rivalry has a tendency of getting ugly, especially around election time, but that doesn’t matter when the rivals happen to be brothers. Election fever is running high for Mehar Shehzad Taj and his younger brother Mehar Naeemullah Taj who are running for chairman against each other from Union Council 230 on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf tickets respectively.
Their house has become the central office for both parties. On one side the picture of a roaring tiger directs PML-N supporters to Shehzad’s office, and on the other side of the courtyard, Imran Khan’s smiling face tells PTI supporters which room to go to. Banners and flexes for both parties are piled on either side of the courtyard which bustles with election activity throughout the day.
House rules do not allow supporters of either candidate to shout slogans for either party. And no one is allowed to criticise the other party in the house.
Naeemullah Taj says that several family elders and notables of the area had tried to persuade him not to run against his brother. “I told them that I cannot tolerate the PML-N’s policies…I am a diehard PTI worker and am fighting the election for the sake of Pakistan’s downtrodden…the PML-N has never taken up the issues of the poor and destitute.”
When asked whether he, or his brother, accuses the other of seeking unfair advantage in their corner meetings or processions, Naeemullah chuckled. “We’re not like that…we might have a difference of opinion over the leaders of the parties we support, however, we talk our differences out…we never lash out at each other.”
Discussing his door to door campaign, he says that people ask whether they should vote for me or my brother and I tell them they need to decide which party they support. “If they believe PML-N’s policies will help them, I tell them to go ahead and vote for the PML-N…if they want change and justice delivered at their doorsteps, if they want our poor to have a better life, if they want reform in the education system, and a solution to the health issues we face, the PTI is the party to vote for.”
He says, “There are naysayers who think one of us will eventually withdraw in favour of the other, but I tell them that’s not what I stand for…I’m fighting this election for the poor in our union council…I will not back down.”
The elder Taj brother is a man of few words. “The PML-N is much more popular than the PTI in our area. It is obvious that I will win.” He says his younger brother’s decision to contest the election had not irked him the slightest. “We have our differences…contesting the elections is the democratic thing to do.”
Both contestants have similar plans for development in the area. They says access to safe drinking water, schools and dispensaries are their priorities.
Residents of the UC, however, have mixed reactions. While some say brothers’ decision to fight their difference in opinion on an electoral platform is emblematic of democracy itself, others pooh-pooh the move and blame the local leaders of both parties for creating a rift in an otherwise influential family. There are more than 20,000 registered votes in UC-230 comprising Sitara Colony, Ittehad Colony, Javed Colony, Gulshan Yaseen Colony and Malik Chowk.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2015.