The district was home to Pakistan’s seventh prime minister, Sir Feroz Khan Noon, who before becoming the premier had served as chief minister of the Punjab (1953-56) and India’s high commissioner to the UK (1936-1941). Another important individual to have come from the district was the first chief justice of the Pakistan Federal Shariah Court, Justice Pir Karam Shah. He belonged to the town of Bhera. Anwar Ali Cheema is another notable political personality of the district. He is one of the three people in Pakistan to have won all six general elections since 1985.
However, these are not all the ‘firsts’ that the district can lay claim to. Sargodha city also boasted of a Bomb Square three decades before monuments were built to celebrate Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998. The square commemorates a bomb dropped on the city in the 1965 war, after which Sargodha won the Hilal-i-Istiqlal for the bravery and courage shown by its residents during those testing times.
In addition, it houses an Air Force Cadet College as well as one of the largest airbases in the country. The district is also the citrus capital of Pakistan and of late, the site of a large number of citrus packaging factories. The dominant political families of the district are the Cheemas, Noons, Parachas, Laks and Qureshis.
In 2001, the PPP’s Inamul Haq Paracha won from this seat, beating the PMLN’s Major (retd) Peerzada Ibrahim Shah by more than 25,000 votes. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali of the PMLQ was only about 1,000 votes behind Peerzada Ibrahim Shah. Inamul Haq Paracha joined the PMLQ in 2005 and vacated this seat to become the district nazim. In the by-election, Inamul Haq Paracha’s nephew Haroon Ehsan Paracha won.
In 2008, Haroon Paracha is again contesting the seat as the PMLQ candidate. He is the son of Ehsaanul Haq Paracha who was state minister for finance during Benazir Bhutto’s 1988 government. His uncle Anwaarul Haq Paracha and his grandfather Fazlul Haq Paracha have also been elected provincial legislators from this area.
Haroon Paracha’s main challenge comes from the PMLN’s Farooq Bahaual Haq Shah, the son of a known religious scholar and spiritual leader, the late Pir Karam Shah. His father had a large following in the area, which has evolved into a considerable vote bank in the present times. Farooq Bahaual Haq Shah is also the brother of 2002 runner-up, Peerzada Ibrahim Shah. The other contender is the PPP’s Nadeem Afzal Gondal whose father, Haji Afzal Chan, has won a provincial assembly seat from the neighboring Mandi Bahauddin district a number of times. Nadeem Afzal Gondal’s grand-uncle, Chaudhry Umar Hayat Gondal, became a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1937 from the Bhalwal area which is now part of this constituency.
Most of the area falling in this constituency was once NA-48 Sargodha II. It was from here that Nawaz Sharif contested and won a National Assembly in the 1990 general elections apart from his traditional seat of Lahore. In the last elections Ghias Ahmed Mela of the PMLQ defeated Mehr Khaliq Yar Lak of the PPP by a narrow margin of 3,000 votes to win this seat. In February, both these men will face each other again while the PMLN’s Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha will be the third contender. Ranjha is the son of former MPA Shahnawaz Ranjha.
Ghias Ahmed Mela will enjoy the support of his brother Chaudhry Bakhtiar who is the tehsil nazim in Kot Momin, a main town in the area. In fact, his family has always played a prominent role in the region’s politics. His uncle Colonel (retd) Qadir Bakhsh Mela won a National Assembly seat on a PPP ticket and worked as the state minister for sports in the government formed by the party in 1988. Later the family switched sides, joining the PMLN and after quite some time it shifted its loyalties to the PMLQ.
However, his challenger, PPP’s Mehr Khaliq Yar Lak is not a political lightweight either. He is the son of Mehr Khudadad, a former senator and MNA. Lak’s father-in-law, Mehr Dastgir Lak, was also a prominent leader of the PPP in Sargodha district before he defected to the PMLQ.
The 2002 elections witnessed the victory of Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi of the PPP from this seat. He beat the MMA’s Arshad Shahid by about 1,000 votes while Hamid Hameed of the PMLN came in third with 10,000 votes behind the winner. PMLQ candidate, Mian Shahid Nazir, garnered just 10,000 votes, lagging far behind Qureshi. It was the PPP’s first win in urban Sargodha since 1970.
In the coming elections, Qureshi and Hamid Hameed will face each other again, representing the same parties as in the last elections while the MMA has awarded its ticket to Aslam Katchela, a known local politician. PMLQ, however, has given its ticket to Farhana Shoaib Awan, the wife of Sargodha tehsil nazim Malik Shoaib Awan who was also a member of the provincial assembly in 2002. Hamid Hameed’s father Chaudhry Abdul Hameed is also a prominent politician: he served as the mayor of Sargodha and won seats to the provincial and national assemblies.
Record-making parliamentarian, Anwar Ali Cheema of the PMLQ, won his sixth consecutive election from this constituency in 2002. His closest rival was Shams Naveed Cheema of the MMA who bagged 38,000 votes, leaving him more than 48,000 votes behind the winner. PPP candidate Hafeezullah Cheema came in a distant third.
In February Anwar Ali Cheema will be facing PPP’s Dr Zulfiqar Bhatti and PMLN’s Mohammad Ali Gujjar. The latter is the nephew of Siraj Gujjar who won a provincial assembly seat in 1993 from the PPP platform. Interestingly enough, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, who is representing PMLN in NA-65, is contesting this seat as an independent candidate.
In 2002, Mazhar Ahmed Qureshi of the PMLQ beat Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the PMLN by a massive margin of 27,000 votes. Farhat Abbas of the PPP was a very distant third. Qureshi has been taking part in electoral politics for quite some time now: he first became an MNA in 1990 and his father Amir Haider Qureshi was a senator in 1985.
Initially, Mazhar Ahmed Qureshi was awarded the PMLQ ticket for the 2008 elections but he returned it on the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. He is now contesting as an independent candidate. His main challenger is another independent candidate, Farrukh Javed Ghumman, who is a close relative of Anwar Ali Cheema. PMLN has awarded its ticket to Syed Javed Husnain Shah while the PPP is not contesting this seat because the nomination papers of its candidate were rejected.