LAHORE -  The National Assembly constituency No 120 (Lahore) has always been a stronghold of the PML-N. But whether the voters of the area still support the Sharifs as enthusiastically as before will be seen tomorrow (Sunday), when by-election is held on the seat that fell vacant after the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on July 28.

The lack of clarity is because of a number of factors that have changed after the previous election on the seat, which Mr Sharif had won by bagging 91,666 voters. His strongest rival was PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid, who had polled 52,321 votes.

The Sharif family is facing the most testing times of their political career.

While Nawaz Sharif has been conclusively ousted from politics, his wife Kalsoom, who is a candidate on this seat, is receiving cancer treatment at a London hospital. She could not visit the constituency even once and nobody can say with certitude if and when she would be able to do so.

References have been filed in an accountability court against all members of the Sharif family, including the former prime minister, his sons Hussain and Hasan, daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt Safdar. (Daughter Asma’s father-in-law Ishaq Dar, who continues to run the finance ministry is also among the accused.)

Shehbaz Sharif, who so far did not face any legal proceedings, will also have to face courts as the National Accountability Bureau is going to file before the Supreme Court appeal against the LHC order in the 17-year old Hudaibya Paper Mills case. Earlier, the NAB was in no mood to approach the apex court against the LHC which had quashed the case three years ago.

Relations between the ruling PML-N and the army are very tense. Party leaders think that behind many moves going on at present are the “invisible hands”, a euphemism for the army and the intelligence agencies.

The PML-N leadership’s plan to forge an ‘informal’ alliance with the PPP to keep the army in limits has failed as the PPP feels that Mr Sharif did not honour his commitment.

PPP sources claim that Mr Zardari had delivered his June 2015 anti-army speech with Mr Sharif’s assurance that two would stand together. However, the moment the former president delivered his fiery speech, Mr Sharif changed his mind and he preferred not to meet Mr Zardari a day later, although the meeting had been scheduled much before.

Hurt by his betrayal, the PPP is out to settle scores with the PML-N.

It is being claimed that the PPP has addressed all reservations the army had against the party leadership.

At present, the PPP has best-ever relations with the army, claims a senior PPP leader, who believes that the future belongs to the PPP.

This claim may or may not be well founded, but it may safely be predicted that the PPP will keep itself at a distance from the PML-N in the foreseeable future .

It is in this situation that the election for NA-120 is being held.

The campaign for her mother was conducted single-handedly by Maryam Nawaz. And the credit or lack of it for the result will be exclusively hers.

(Interestingly, when Nawaz Sharif was arrested after the 1999 military coup, it was Kalsoom who had run a campaign against the army and kept the party alive. But now that the father has been disqualified as prime minister, it is the daughter who is campaigning for the mother)

In case the PML-N wins the seat Maryam will emerge as a towering figure in the party and even her seniors will not be able to challenge her. Maybe, the uncles feel uncomfortable with her, just as PPP uncles were uncomfortable with Benazir Bhutto after the execution of her father.

There are some changes in the situation compared to the one in 2013.

In 2013 the JUI-F had put up its own candidate (Hafiz Sanaullah) on this seat, who had polled 1,152 votes.

This time the JUI-F is an ally of the PML-N and is supporting Begum Kalsoom.

The JUP is a divided house at present. While a faction led by Pir Ijaz Hashmi is supporting the PML-N, the one led by Qari Zawwar Bahadr is in the opposite camp.

The Jamaat-i-Islami was in the field in the 2013 election, although its candidate had bagged 952 votes. It is again in the race now, but there is little hope of him making any difference.

The PPP and the PTI would have done well by putting up a joint candidate against the PML-N. But they have not been able to reach an understanding on the subject. Disunity of the opposition parties will benefit the PML-N.

Media have reported conflicting assessments of the intelligence agencies. While some papers have quoted intelligence sources as saying that Kalsoom will win the election with a big margin, some others say that agencies don’t rule out the possibility of an upset.

The result will be out by Sunday night.