lahore - Results of the 13 national and 25 provincial assembly seats of the city can be different from the past this time as the PTI factor has created a sharp division among the voters besides fomenting spirit of contest in a big way.

The election situation in Lahore leads to the conclusion that with the exception of a few, a close and tough contest is expected on all the city seats. Since the election 1990, Lahore has been a stronghold of PML-N, but to retain it as a political citadel, the party needs to work very hard in these elections.

At present, PML-N and PTI are making all-out efforts to take lead, but the final decision is in the hands of 4.4219 million voters of the city. In the election 2008, PML-N had won 11 of the total 13 National Assembly seats while the rest two were grabbed by PPP. PTI had boycotted the last election, but this time the party is in the field with a high spirit, enthusiasm and commitment. As such the actual contest in the city is not between the traditional rivals, PML-N and PPP, but between PML-N and PTI while PPP, despite fielding candidates on all the seats, is highly in low profile.

In the electoral history of the country, Lahore holds key as its results not only determine future of the contesting parties and the candidates but also set their rating on the national political scene. In the May 11 elections, the city presents a happy blend of new and old faces. PML-N top leaders, including Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, Khwaja Saad Rafiq and Pervez Malik, while PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Shafqat Mahmood, Mian Mahmoodur Rashid and Hamid and PPP’s Samina Khalid Gurki, Azizur Rahman Chan and Naveed Choudhary and JI’s Liaqat Baloch, Farid Peracha and Ameerul Azeem, JUP-N’s Qari Zawar Bahadur and JUI-S’s Maulana Muhammad Asim are among the runners for the city seats.

While rearranging the candidates, PML-N has changed position of some candidates from the national to provincial assembly and vice versa besides introducing some new faces. While most of the PTI candidates are newcomers in the election contest, but they are running campaign with maturity. PML-N has well-organised structure at UC, tehsil and district levels and is capable of wooing the voters.

Although actual contest is between PML-N and PTI, the position of PPP candidate and former federal minister Samina Khalid Gurki appears better in NA-130, particularly after the Dayals have come to her side on being denied ticket to Ijaz Dayal by PML-N. According to political pundits, all the three Sharifs are safe and appear ahead of their rivals by huge margin. Nawaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif are contesting from their constituencies in the heart of the city, NA-120 and NA-119, respectively, while Shahbaz Sharif is contesting on a challenging seat in NA-129 which in the last election was won by PPP’s Tariq Shabbir Meo. Shahbaz Sharif is also contesting for two provincial seats, PP-159 and PP-161 of this NA constituency. The victory of Shahbaz Sharif in NA-129 is necessary if he has to fulfill his dream of becoming federal minister for water and power in the next PML-N government. Shabbir is again in the field on PPP ticket, but unlike the last election, he is facing a division in the largest Meo biradari’s votes this time. For PTI, Ch Mansha Sindhu is contesting in NA-129. Mansha, a three-time MPA, is relatively a potential candidate. He was elected from the same constituency in 1997 and as a PML-Q candidate in the election 2002. He is quite active in his constituency.

The election campaign of Shahbaz Sharif was first handled by Talha Burki. Lter, it was taken over by Salman Shahbaz Sharif who took the PML-N graph in this constituency to a new height through interaction with the locals and notables as well as by winning support of the main biradaris, including Meo, Malik, Rahmani Arian and Gujjar.

With a total number of 273,648 registered voters in NA-129, 80 per cent of them belong to the rural area of Kahna Nau, Kahna Kacha Raiwind, Jia Bagga, Ladheke, Guru Mangat, Gunj Sharif and Kahna Town Committee. The development projects, especially Metro and teshil status to Raiwind, have helped Shahbaz win the hearts of the voters.

Nawaz Sharif is facing PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid, PPP’s Zuber Kardar and JI’s Hafiz Salman Butt among 25 contestants while Hamza, among others, is racing for NA-119 with PTI’s Muhammad Madni and PPP’s Sohail Malik. Bilal Yasin who was last time elected on NA-120 this time is contesting on PP-139 seat, falling under the same NA constituency. Bilal is facing JI’s Hafiz Salman Butt and PTI’s Mazhar Iqbal Bhalli Butt who both are being considered potential candidates. Nawaz Sharif is in a very good position, but if Dr Yasmin carries the palm, she will be producing the biggest upset of the whole election.

In NA-118, PML-N’s Muhammad Riaz Malik, who previously was elected to national and provincial seats from the same constituency is working hard to retain the seat against PTI’s Hamid Zaman and PPP’s Faraz Hashmi, son of Asif Hashmi. Asif Hashmi who lost the last election in this constituency was, later, made the Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman. Riaz’s own services and split of PPP vote in the presence of PTI candidate can pave way for his success in the election.

In NA-121, PML-N has fielded Mehar Ishtiaq who was elected to the provincial assembly in the last election. Mehar is also contesting for PP-150 seat. He is facing PTI’s Barrister Hammad Azhar, son of former Punjab governor Mian Muhammad Azhar, and PPP’s Aurengzeb Burki. On PP-149, falling under NA-121, PML-N has fielded former Punjab Assembly deputy speaker Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan who is also facing anger of his own party, Shoaib Khan Niazi, PPP’s Nadir Khan and PTI’s Eng Harris. Here PMl-N is facing a tough fight.

In NA-122, PTI Chief Imran Khan is up against PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, PPP’s Barrister Amir Hassan and JI’s Ameerul Azeem. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, son-in-law of Justice (r) Sardar Iqbal, is repeating from here. On PP-148 under NA-122, a close contest is expected between PML-N’s Ch Akhtar Rasool and PTI’s Mian Aslam Iqbal. In NA-123, another close fight is expected among PML-N’s Muhammad Pervez Malik, PPP’s Haji Azizur Rahman Chan and PTI’s Atif Ch.

Sheikh Rohail Ashgar of PML-N is facing PPP’s Bushra Aitzaz Ahsan, the spouse of Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, and PTI’s Walid Iqbal, the son of Dr Javed Iqbal and grandson of Allama Iqbal. 

The rest two are novice in the electoral field.

In NA-125, senior leader of PML-N, Khwaja Saad Rafiq, is facing PTI’s Hamid Khan, a senior lawyer and well known for spearheading movement for the restoration of judges. In the same constituency, PPP has fielded Naveed Ch, coordinator to President Zardari. In NA-126, PML-N has fielded Khawja Ahmad Hassan. PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood and JI’s Liaqat Baloch are in the field in this constituency. Here a surprising result is expected.

In NA-127, PML-N has fielded former UC Nazim Waheed Alam against PPP’s Khurram Latif Khosa, son of former Punjab governor Sardar Latif Khosa, and PTI’s Nasrullah Mughal. A close contest is expected here.

In NA-128 a very hard contest is expected between PML-N’s Malik Afzal Khokhar and PTI’s Malik Karamat Khokhar. Afzal is repeating election in this constituency. Both command robust support in the public and expected to give an interesting contest.