LAHORE - Without naming any visible or hidden force, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah yesterday said that all efforts were made to reduce the vote bank of the PML-N in NA-120 by-polls held on Sunday last.

Addressing a news conference at Assembly cafeteria, the law minister said that it was part of the game plan to prevent the religious vote from being polled in favour of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz in the by-election.

He claimed that present religious vote , (14, 270 according to his calculation) was polled in favour of Mian Nawaz Sharif in 2013 elections. Obviously, the minister was referring to the votes obtained by JuD-backed candidate, Sheikh Muhammad Yaqoob and Azhar Hussain Rizvi of Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah in the recent by-election. The latter has emerged as the third force in NA-120 after the PTI as its candidate secured 7,130 votes, followed closely by the former with 5,822 votes. JI candidate got 592 votes.

“Had the religious vote been added to the PML-N’s present lead of votes, the margin of victory would have touched the figure of 25,000. Similarly, had the ECP extended the polling time on our request, the margin of victory would have gone up to 40,000, [similar to that in 2013], as the voters standing in queues belonged to the PML-N,” he maintained.

He explained that other parties especially the PTI did not agree to PML-N’s suggestion to extend the polling time since they knew that people standing in queues outside the polling stations would cast their votes in favour of the PML-N candidate. Besides, he added, the polling process remained slow because the voters took considerable time in finding the PML-N candidate in the long list of 44 candidates who, according to him, were in the run under a conspiracy.

Rana said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had presented the Supreme Court of Pakistan as a political party in the by-election by saying that people would actually be supporting the court by casting votes in favour of the PTI candidate. He said that SC registrar should have issued a clarification after Khan’s statement making the apex court a party in the elections; but it did not happen.

He also asked Imran Khan, Sheikh Rashid and Sirajul Haq to concede their defeat as they had made the NA-120 election a fight between those supporting the SC judgment and those opposed to it.

“Now, the people have rejected the SC verdict by electing Begum Kalsoom Nawaz from NA-120 vindicating the PML-N stance on the judgment against Mian Nawaz Sharif,” he affirmed.

He further stated that SC verdict was not a holy scripture that has to be believed in any case. “But despite having serious reservations, we have ensured implementation on it,” he averred.

Demeaning the court decision against the ex-prime minister, Sana recalled that SC had to take back many of its controversial decisions in the past. In this regard, he mentioned the SC judgments on ZA Bhutto, proclamation of emergency by General Musharraf and the one giving the dictator an authority to amend the constitution.