LAHORE -  The by-election campaign of 44 candidates in NA-120 Lahore is picking up momentum albeit eminently by three main contestants as their political stakes on the win of this seat are much higher than the others.

PML-N, PTI and PPP are political parties in the limelight about their campaign although others are also showing their presence in this constituency however at a lower level. All the three main political parties are evaluating their gains from the win in NA-120 differently. Just eight or nine months ahead of the general election, the political value of victory in this election appears to have overshadowed that of the parliamentary.

Of the total 44 candidates, 11 relate to the political parties and the rest are independents in this constituency.

The voters’ strength in this constituency is estimate around 0.325 million including middle and low middle class.

The election-day is on September 17, and all candidates are whipping up their campaign. Among the leading three political parties, so far, the PML-N stands conspicuous in terms of holding public meetings, corner meetings and rallies. PTI and PPP have yet to show their public support but they are continuing their ground work to win over the NA-120 voters. All parties came across problems in running the campaign but they were of their own nature and kind.

For the PML-N, Kulsoom Nawaz has been fielded while Dr Yasmeen Rashid and Faisal Mir represent PTI and PPP respectively. It is interesting to note that besides the veteran religio-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, two other religious-turned political parties are for the first time taking part in this election. They are Milli Muslim League which has been launched as political wing of the Jamaatud Dawa and Tehrike Labaik Pakistan of Tehrike Labiak Ya Rasool Allah. Apart from that, Justice Party of the city lawyers is also in the field.

The highest stakes in the election are of the PML-N which has not lost this seat in the five general elections held since 1993. Of them, three times this seat was won by Nawaz Sharif. In the May 2013 election Nawaz Sharif had routed the PTI’s Dr Yasmeen Rashid with a margin of over 40,000 votes.

Being first election contest on political arena after spending many years in the politics of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Dr Yasmin’s defeat against Nawaz Sharif like political heavyweight was not counted as a poor show at the observers’ level. Yasmin this time round is in the field confident for the success.

The retention of lofty political stature of the PML-N in the city much depends on this victory which will also be instrumental of Nawaz Sharif’s representation in the NA following which many changes at the government and party level are being seen at the observers’ level. For PTI and PPP, victory in NA-120 will be a big blow to PML-N and a show of their rising popularity in the city and the province. But atop all that the NA-120 victory would mean for PML-N a public verdict to reject disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court and it will be otherwise for the PTI and the PPP if either of them won the polls.

The public support gathered through the win in NA-120 will be a message by the Sharifs to those who alleging corruption on them are going to open legal matters against them while win of the PTI or the PPP will be a tool in their hand to build more pressure on the Sharifs to grip them tightly in legal matters, say the observers.

In this crunch election the PML-N candidate Kulsoom Nawaz, the spouse of Nawaz Sharif, is in London where she is undergoing surgical and medical treatment of her cancer disease. Her daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif is completely shouldering her campaign in the constituency where she has been warmly received by the people of all classes and gender.

The PML-N had initially involved Federal Minister and City President of the Party Muhammad Pervez Malik as head of Kulsoom’s election campaign. However the Election Commission taking cognizance of the complaints by the rival candidates restrained him and other ministers from running her campaign whereof almost entire burden of campaign has been shifted to Maryam. Maryam Nawaz over the last one week campaign has pulled massive public to her meetings after she had been driving from her Jattiumra residence as rally to the constituency. The PML-N has so successfully shown massive field support for the party candidate while their rivals are touching the voters in door to door side by side knocking the door of the election commission with complaints against the ruling party, so that it could not turn the advantage official machinery and funds to their favour.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in particular, raised the points before ECP which it believes would plug the holes of pre-polls rigging. Dr Yasmin and Faisal Mir apart from challenging candidature of Kulsoom Nawaz before the superior judiciary, are leading complaints to ECP to stop development works in the constituency, transfer and posting of the police and administrative officers and expunge about 29,000 voters which they believe, don’t exist in the Nadra record. Both the said parties are also going to make public shows in the city this week where their top leadership is expected to speak.

The PML-N has not withdrawn Hafiz Nauman as covering candidate of Begum Kulsoom. Nauman was given ‘Laptop’ as election symbol but his focus is ‘tiger’ for which he was campaigning. Unlike the last election, Pakistan People’s Party is in the field with tremendous zeal and seriousness. Overall the upcoming election is going to be interesting but close and important for all parties.

 

SAJID ZIA