Islamabad-The by-election in Islamabad’s NA-53 constituency scheduled to be held on October 14 like the other constituencies across the country is likely to be a one-sided affair with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leadership having shown no interest and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate Ali Nawaz Awan facing no competition at all.

Awan being a party man has the support of the government in Islamabad and it’s easy for him to win the sympathies of the voters through assurances of development work in the constituency. He was elected chairman of an Islamabad union council in local government election in 2015 and later nominated as opposition leader in the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad. It is to mention here that Prime Minister Imran Khan had defeated PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with a margin of over 48,000 votes. Khan had secured 92,891 votes while the former chief executive of the country could manage to secure 44,314 votes in July 25 general elections, according to the unofficial results and later Khan vacated the seat which led to by-election in the constituency. This time too, the winner and runner up would most likely be from the two political parties; PTI and PML-N. Ali Nawaz Awan, however has an edge over PML-N’s candidate for the constituency, Raja Waqar Mumtaz due to popularity of former’s party at present and the circumstances in his favour.

On the other hand, no serious effort was made by the former ruling party to make the NA-53 by-election really a contest as it fielded Raja Waqar Mumtaz, who hails from Phulgaran, despite having three other strong candidates from Islamabad. According to the party sources, none among former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Minister of State Tariq Fazal Chaudhary and former MNA Anjum Aqeel Khan was willing to ‘take the risk’ by contesting a constituency vacated by Imran Khan in the by-election.

PML-N’s stalwart Shahid Khan Abbasi preferred NA-124 (Lahore-II), a safe constituency as it is the home constituency of Hamza Shahbaz Sharif. Hamza was elected from NA-124 (Lahore-II) and PP-146 (Lahore-III) and later retained the provincial assembly seat (PP-146). The other two PML-N leaders also did not show an interest in the bye-election and the party had to nominate Raja Waqar Mumtaz, according to the party sources.

Mumtaz can hardly be seen campaigning in the constituency and the party leadership is also not making any serious effort for his success, survey of the constituency suggests. Senior PTI leaders have not shown any presence in the constituency as they might be confident about their win. However, PTI’s candidate, Ali Nawaz Awan is striving hard to win the seat. After a meeting with the Prime Minister, Awan assured the slum dwellers, a major vote bank in the constituency that they would face no issues and be provided amenities during the tenure of the incumbent government. According to reports, the government has stopped the anti-encroachment drive in the city to keep the encroachers of a vast state land with them, at least until the by-election. Sources said that the operation would be resumed once the by-election is over.

The survey suggests that PML-N candidate is reaching out to the voters daily through corner meetings and door-to-door campaign. He also succeeded in convincing other political figures for his support. Former local JI leader Zubair Farooq Khan has announced his support for Awan along with other local leaders. Zubair Farooq Khan was uneasy with the party leadership and some time back, had parted ways with the Siraj-led party. The PTI candidate can also be seen on the election posters in the constituency while on the other hand there seems to be no such exercise on part of the PML-N candidate. Pakistan Peoples Party also fielded its candidates for the by-election; Iftikhar Shehzada but the contest is likely to be between PTI and PML-N candidates and the circumstances has made it an easy contest to fight for the PTI candidate. Raja Waqar Mumtaz could not be reached for comment on the situation despite repeated efforts.