LAHORE: The much-hyped and crucial Lahore by-election in NA-122 and PP-147 is being held today wherein close contests are in the sight between candidates of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Mohsin Latif will compete with PTI’s Abdul Aleem Khan and Muhammad Shoaib Siddiqui on the National Assembly and Punjab Assembly seats respectively. PPP’s Barrister Amir Hassan for the NA and Iftikhar Shahid for PA are also in the run among total 16 candidates, seven relating to the political parties and nine independents.

Total number of registered voters for the NA seat is 347762, (190328 males and 157434 females) and for PA it is 140676. Polling will start at 8am and continue till 5pm at 284 polling stations, 134 each for male and female voters and 16 combined. Voting will be allowed against the production of computerised ID card. Pakistan army and the police are supervising elections. They will be deputed inside and outside the polling stations. Ayaz Sadiq had returned thrice to the NA from this constituency which in the 2002 election was carved out of NA-94, 96 and 98. In the last general election, Ayaz won election against the PTI Chairman Imran Khan by securing 93,389 votes, leaving the rival at 84,517.

Khan, who had serious objections to the transparency of election in four Punjab NA seats, challenged his defeat before the Election Tribunal which heard the case for over two years and accepted the plea on August 22 and unseated Ayaz Sadiq when he was also holding speakership of the National Assembly. Mohsin Latif was unseated from the subordinate PA seat. Two other PML-N MNAs, Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq from NA-125 Lahore and Siddiq Baloch from NA-154 Lodhra (who joined this party after winning the elections as an independent), were disqualified by the tribunals but they approached the Supreme Court which stayed their unseating.

Previously, the PML-N had decided to put Ayaz and Siddiq to the ‘public court’ but after grant of stay to the latter, Siddiq has been left in the arena.

Aleem Khan, a businessman, had returned to the provincial assembly from PP-147 in 2002 elections as PML-Q candidate and served as IT minister. He joined the PTI in 2012. Both the main parties are enjoying support of different other political forces, religio-politco parties, pressure groups and Bradaries in the constituency which comprises posh localities like Upper Mall, the Mall, Zaman Park, Shadman, Zafar Ali Road, and Shah Jamal, and middle and lower class localities like Ghari Shahu, Samnabad, Icchra, Ferozepur Road, Empress Road, Railway Colony, Ghari Shahu, Mianmir Pind, GT Road, Pakki Thathi, and Chauburgi.

PML-N and PTI have held elaborate and costly campaign to win the election. PTI Chairman Imran Khan has himself spearhead the campaign while PML-N ministers and legislators at the head of Hamza Shahbaz Sharif campaigned for their candidate. Observers view the PML-N stakes much higher than the PTI in the polls as N League has been ruling Lahore since 1988 and defeat in the polls will be a big dent to its popularity and credence to the PTI allegations on the last election as a whole as well as against the government.