LAHORE -  Zadil Khan has been wandering the slums along the banks of the Ravi since morning in search of work. Wearing a brown shalwar kameez, he settles down in the corner of a shabby street to rest.

Unbeknown to many, these vast slums that start from the beginning of Shahdra Town where the Ravi crosses Chowk 32, where naked, malnourished children play with the city trash, are also part of the notorious NA-120, the ultimate election battleground come September 17.

Lahore’s biggest constituency and the heart of the city’s diverse cultures, NA-120 comprises some of Pakistan’s most important historical sites like the Lahore High Court, the Supreme Court Lahore registry, Chauburji, GPO, the shrine of Hazrat Data Gunj Bakhsh, Laxmi and so on. Likewise, it is also the centre of many political and religious groups, and campaigning at the lead-up to the election is at an all-time high.

Despite this, the citizens of the slum areas are largely forgotten.

“I can’t vote for any candidate of NA-120,” Zadil says. “Nadra has refused me a CNIC card.”

Zadil is a Pakhtoon, but he was born here after his grandfather moved from FATA to Bilal Gunj — the heart of NA-120.

“I belong here, where these leaders are promising bright futures for the locals of NA-120. I am a citizen of Pakistan but me and my three brothers have been deprived of the status.”

In the absence of national ID cards, these men cannot vote , and effectively don’t exist. In areas like Bund Road and the river slums, where 80-90 percent of people are Pakhtoon immigrants, the sentiment is largely in favour of Imran Khan and those who could vote in the last general elections voted for Khan’s PTI.

Mursaleen Khan, another Pakhtoon settled here since birth, has managed to acquire both a CNIC and passport, and says the government has recently blocked the ID applications of close to 200 Pakhtoons , all of whom have spent their entire lives in NA-120.

“Whenever we approach NADRA, they ask us to provide documents from as far back as 1978,” he says. “They have created problems for my community, and snatched away their right to live in dignity.”

Yet he concedes he will be supporting Kalsoom Nawaz in the coming election.

Uzma Razzaq, a resident of Amin Park says, “So far, not one of the candidates have visited us here.”

New Amin Park is the last adjoining slum area with the Ravi banks.

“The Milli Muslim League has asked me to be ready for the next local bodies election,” she says, pointing out that the MML has recently established their office adjacent to her house in Bulleh Shah Chowk. “But I haven’t decided yet,” she says.

She complains that they still suffer from loadshedding that lasts for hours, robberies and security threats. Sitting on her chorpoy in the street, she points to the poorly made roads. “See for yourself,” she says, waving to the scene before her. “We’re just hoping someone someday will come as our savior.”