LAHORE - Disqualification of Maryam Nawaz has landed the PML-N into an even tougher contest with the PTI for NA-127 Lahore seat where it has now fielded Ali Pervaiz Malik, a young politician with a politically strong family background.

Maryam had never been to this constituency, yet she enjoyed a tremendous popularity and public acceptance here.

She was obviously a stronger candidate for two prime reasons. One, she is a daughter of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif and is equally loved by his father’s fans.

Two, she has already proved her mettle by running a successful campaign for her ailing mother Begum Kalsoom in NA-120 by-election last September. Her fiery speeches in the public rallies proved an icing on the cake of the already high popularity of PML-N in its stronghold.

In observers’ assessment, had there been Maryam Nawaz the PML-N could have won quite easily from NA-127 but now the party will need to put up more labour to defeat PTI candidate Jamshed Iqbal Cheema.

Maryam’s candidacy was switched from NA-125 (NA-120 previously) to NA-127 after much brainstorming and holding a secret survey to access the chances of her victory.

Earlier on Maryam was tipped sure contender of the party in NA-125 where her mother and father had already returned to the parliament defeating the same PTI candidate – Dr Yasmin Rashid.

But now that the PTI is in a high spirits due to Panama case victory and successful efforts to corner and create confusion in the PML-N, and Dr Yasmin is running a very successful campaign, the PML-N thought it risky to field Maryam here. Moreover, the religious organizations’ taking part in the polls had further clouded victory chance of Maryam in this area.

Comprising 26 UCs, having the most of their office bearers affiliated with the PML-N, NA-127 covers Baghbanpura, UET, Kot Khwaja Saeed, Misri Shah, Sultanpura and other parts of northern Lahore. These are localities mostly inhabited by middle and lower middle class people which ideally suit the PML-N for public appeal.

Maryam – who is tending her ailing mother in London – found a tremendous public reception in this constituency.

The day her nomination papers for NA-127 were accepted, the PML-N supporters celebrated the occasion in a big way. Next day, a large number of party supporters took out a live tiger, the election symbol of PML-N, on the road to mark the popularity of Maryam. Led by one Mian Zia, the supporters pledged to every day make such a road show as part of party’s election campaign.

The spirit however appears to have been dampened after Maryam’s disqualification – which has also triggered certain other problems for the party in the changed situation, as was learnt through a survey conducted by The Nation.

NA-127 was last time won by PML-N’s Muhammad Pervaiz Malik and this time too he ardently aspired to contest in this constituency. But he vacated NA-127 for Maryam and put himself in NA-133. Interestingly, the Pervaiz family has gained maximum from the withdrawal of their party stalwart. The party ticket for NA-127 has now been given to Pervaiz’s son Ali Pervaiz Malik. Also, his wife Shaista Pervaiz Malik has been named at the top on party list for women reserved seats in NA.

On the other hand, Maryam’s withdrawal from PA-173 seat has jacked up the position of Khokhars of Tokher Niaz Beg.

Afzal Khokhar and Saiful Malook Khokhar were already running for NA seats and Faisal Khokhar for PA-161 seat, and now the PA-173 ticket has been awarded to a fourth member of this family – Irfan Khokhar, who is a nephew of Afzal and Saif. The PML-N however is more concerned about NA-127 where Nawaz Sharif had been ruling the hearts of the people and any PML-N candidate would win from there without any serious challenge. Now the party will need to struggle in some areas where the voters have changed their heart after disqualification of Sharifs.

During The Nation’s survey, it was learnt from many youth that they did not want any corrupt to rule the country. They spoke with arguments and cited China and other states that surmounted difficulties only after purging their country of corrupt politicians. This section of electorate stands neutralised at present while the PTI was wooing them to their side.

Some people found Ali Pervaiz a stranger to them whom they never saw. In interaction with some women, they appeared low key as they had perceived Maryam Nawaz doing much for them had she been won the election in this constituency.

Some holes have been created in NA-127 after Maryam withdrawal yet Pervaiz Malik, a political master of this constituency, will obviously play his part to win the voters over to his son. And for that he will have to make extra efforts, running side by side his own campaign in NA-133. In a nutshell, the NA-127 contest has become much more interesting and tough in the changed scenario.