LAHORE - The NA-122 by-election is not a single-seat contest; its outcome will determine whether Lahore – the political capital of the country- is with the PML-N or it wants the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to share the political cake with the ruling party. In fact, the PTI is trying to “invade” the PML-N’s monopoly of the metropolis and the latter is trying to repulse the attack.

Neither party can afford to lose the battle.

But the PML-N, which barring a short break, has been in power in Punjab since 1985 has more at stake as the defeat of its candidate- Sardar Ayaz Sadiq- will also mean a new speaker for the National Assembly.

The PML-N wants to keep Ayaz Sadiq in the saddle, and it is for this reason that the ruling party did not get a new speaker elected. The plan is that Ayaz will be got re-elected as custodian of the house after he trounces his rivals in the October 11 election.

To ensure his victory, all members of the Sharif family are taking part in the campaign, directly or indirectly. The Punjab government is also playing whatever role it can.

The participation of some federal ministers in the campaign for Ayaz Sadiq also shows that the PML-N wants to win the seat at all costs.

But in case the PTI wins, it will be indicative of cracks in the stronghold of the PML-N. Also, this will rid Imran Khan of a “constant irritant” personified by Ayaz Sadiq, sitting in the speaker’s chair for more than two years.

Imran Khan’s personal involvement in Aleem Khan’s campaign is the testimony how seriously the PTI is taking the election.

As things stand, people of the constituency have many complaints against Ayaz Sadiq.  They allege that their “representative” did not pay much attention to the constituency after getting elected in 2013. However, they are not sure how PTI’s Aleem Khan will be a better replacement.

Sources close to Ayaz Sadiq claim that the former speaker could not frequently visit the constituency because of the role he was supposed to play as the custodian of the house at the national and international level.  However, they say the situation will be much different now if he is re-elected.

Many say that since Ayaz Sadiq belongs to the party in power, he is in a better position to get their problems solved compared to anyone else. Aleem Khan, they say, belongs to an opposition party which will sit on the same benches even if its candidate gets elected. Therefore, voters say, support to the PTI man will mean wasting the vote.

The PPP’s candidate is also in the race. But he stands little chance of getting elected because of people’s disliking for his party. The people of Punjab have almost forgotten the PPP just as the party forgot them while in power.

The failure of the top leadership to campaign for their candidate at a time when the PML-N and the PTI are doing all what they can for their nominees shows that the PPP is convinced that  October 11 is going to be the day of “martyrdom” for their candidate.  

At present, the Jamaat-i-Islami, the Muttahida Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Pakistan Awami Tehrik, JUP (Niazi group) and Sunni Ittehad Council are supporting the PTI candidate.

The Jamaat announced its backing for the PTI candidate on Monday, which is a great achievement of the party of Mr Imran Khan. Both the parties are coalition partners in KP and their decision to join hands for a Lahore seat is in line with the requirements of that alliance.

Since the Jamaat is a well-organised party and has sufficient support in the constituency, its alliance with the PTI will certainly benefit Aleem Khan.

Similarly, the MWM will help the PTI candidate get Shia votes.

(The PML-Q, being an anti-Sharif party, is also supporting the PTI).

Of the remaining religious parties, the JUP (Noorani), JUI (F) and Jamiat Ahle Hadith are with the PML-N.

Jamia Naeemia and Jamia Ashrafia are also lending their support to the PML-N.

Everybody is waiting for October 11 when the popularity of the top two parties will be gauged through ballot.