LAHORE - Electioneering in two national and two provincial assembly constituencies in the city is picking up slowly before the by-elections on October 14.

PML-N and PTI are pitted against each other in all four constituencies in the city, which is considered political stronghold of the PML-N. So far, the most lively and active campaign is being witnessed in NA-124 where PML-N candidate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is facing PTI’s Ghulam Mohayyuddin Dewan.

The NA-124 seat was won by PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif in the last general elections. Later, he vacated this seat to retain the provincial assembly seat whereof he is Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly at the moment. Former prime minister and close friend and confidant of Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been fielded in NA-124 after he lost two seats, one in his hometown Rawalpindi and another in Islamabad, in the last general elections. Although a seasoned politician, Abbasi is quite a new face from the PML-N in the city election and the party is taking extra pain to ensure his win in the October 14 by-elections. His election campaign is being spearheaded by Hamza Shhehbaz while a host of other parliamentarians of the party, including Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, Khawaja Imran Nazir and Waheed Alam are lending a good hand to it.

This constituency is the combine of walled city and the periphery that historically has both commercial and residential value. The past election history shows a very firm grip of the PML-N on this constituency which is once again producing a big thrill for Abbasi.

Ghulam Mohiyyuddin Deewan is a Kashmiri whose father and himself have been member of the AJK Assembly. Deewan is known as self-made who raised himself as leading merchant of Akbari Mandi from the scratches through struggle and sheer hard work. Although he had joined the PTI a couple of years ago, yet he is commanding support of a good number of party workers along with that of the huge Kashmiri bradery. Unlike Abbasi, no big name of the PTI is associated with his electioneering that is being run through corner meetings, door to door contacts and pamphlets. Given the current hectic campaign for Abbasi and the fact Hamza had won the last election against Nauman Qaiser of PTI with wide margin, Deewan needs to work very hard during the next 10 days before the election.

NA-131 is where the PTI is defending its seat the Party chairman Imran Khan had won in the last election defeating the PML-N stalwart Khwaja Saad Rafiq however with a thin margin. The PTI has fielded Humayun Akhtar Khan after he had joined this party not too long ago. Khwaja Saad Rafiq is again in to contest for this seat for which he is striving hard not only through corner meetings but also personally reaching out to the voters. This constituency houses posh localities like Defence, Cavalry Ground and Cantt as well the middle class and lower class areas like Bhutta Chowk and abadis along Badian Road.

Khan an old campaigner of city politics, is running his campaign in a organized manner. The constituency had small pockets of bradery votes apart from deradar groups. In posh localities, the PTI had enjoyed good support in the past elections and Khan can put up a good contest if he would manage to woo the voters in lower class areas as well. 

Public response to the electioneering so far is as slow as it commonly goes with the by-election. However in the time to come, campaigning in NA-131 is expected to pick up pace and momentum.

The electioneering in PP-164 and PP-165 is also without much enthusiasm so far. The PML-N has fielded Malik Saiful Malook Khokhar in PP-164 and Sohail Shaukat Butt in PP-165 who both are quite optimistic about coming out winner since both these seats have been vacated by the Party President and former Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif after he retained the NA seat.  The PTI has fielded Muhammad Mansha Sindhu in PP-164. He had lost the last NA-132 seat to Shehbaz Sharif in the last election and this time he is very optimistic to win the PA seat. Same way Saiful Maluk Khokhar had lost the NA seat to the PTI’s Karamat Khokhar in the Jujly 25 polls when his brother, son and nephew had won their seats in the constituencies around . PP-164 consists of large Mayo and Gujjar braderies whose votes is considered decisive in the victory of any Party. Former Minister of the PML-N government Ch Abdul Ghafoor, who belongs to Mayo bradery is now a part of the PTI.

Sohail Shaukat has been MNA of the PML-N who now is facing Muhammad Yousaf of the PTI, who is repeating the election in the PP-165.

Albeit at low level, the nature of campaign by the rival candidates in all four constituencies is the same as it was seen in the general elections. The PML-N is criticizing the PTI government on its policies and decisions when it is only a month old. This Party is projecting its achievements while corruption cases at the NAB end against its leadership are hitting at its past performance. The PTI is blaming the N government for leaving the nation in the lurch of huge foreign loans and wrong priorities whereof economic health of the country quite critical today. As such next 10 days are important to determine mood of the voters and set their mind to the performance and worth of a party.