LAHORE - As the by-polls on 16 national and 26 provincial seats are just eight days away, all major political rivals have accelerated efforts not only to recapture their vacated seats but to also to improve their tally to gain more weight for the future developments on the political chessboard of the country.

These are seven NA and 14 PA seats of Punjab; five NA and four PA seats of KPK; three NA and five PA seats of Sindh and one NA and three provincial assembly seats of Balochistan. Of them PML-N has to defend maximum 11 seats, all in Punjab, followed by PTI seven, JUI-F four and PPP three.

The mainstream party, PPP, excepting Sindh, is in a low profile in the other provinces while others parties, including PML-N, PTI, JUI-F and ANP, are preparing to enter the arena with full force. New political alignments are also in the making as JUI-F is seeking support of PML-N for its candidates in KPK and JI wants PTI’s help on all seats.

In view of the fact that the governments formed after the last elections have only increased the financial burden, sense of insecurity and problems of the masses, political pundits foresee a lukewarm participation of the voters in the by-polls and the results not much different from the last ones. The outcome of the election will not disturb governments at the federal and provincial level though some parties are desirous of changing the equation in KPK by grabbing vacant seats of the ruling party.

PML-N has appointed MNA Hamza Sharif as in-charge of the overall election campaign while committees comprising election representatives have also been formed at the level of constituencies. Similarly, the other main rival of this party, PTI, is fast bracing for the election campaign, focusing on KPK. The party is finalising schedule of Imran Khan’s visit to the constituencies for wooing the voters.

NA-48, Islamabad, which was vacated by PTI’s Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, is going to be defended by this party through Asad Umar who will mainly face Ch Muhammad Ashraf Gujjar of PML-N. Former MNA Anjum Aqeel Khan and Hanif Abbasi also wanted PML-N ticket for the seat, but they have been denied. Disgruntled Anjum has announced to independently contest the election, which may lower chances of PML-N to win from here. JI is supporting the PTI candidate while Faisal Sultan has been fielded by PPP.

The ruling PML-N is sure to regain all four seats in the city.

In NA-129, PML-N has given ticket to Ms Shazia Mubashir after her husband Rana Mubashir was disqualified by the LHC. She will face Mansha Sindhu of PTI who lost the last election to Shahbaz Sharif in the same constituency. PPP candidate Ashraf Bhatti is also in the run and is struggling hard to revive the history of the 2008 election when his party had routed the N-League candidate Sardar Adil Umar with a margin of over 10,000 votes. In PP-161 PML-N has fielded Ch Gulzar Gujjar, PTI Khalid Mahmood Gujjar and PPP Rana Akhtar. PP-161, also vacated by Shahbaz Sharif, is a subordinate constituency of NA-129. In PP-150, PML-N has fielded former MNA Mian Marghoob Ahmad. He will face Wajid Azeem of PTI and Asif Nagra of PPP. Another potential candidate of PML-N Khwaja Salman Rafiq has been fielded in PP-142 which was vacated by Hamza Shahbaz Sharif.

In order to give a boost to the PTI campaign, Imran Khan is also expected to address public meetings in the city constituencies.

On the vacated seat of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in NA-68 Sargodha city, PML-N has awarded ticket to former MNA Shafqat Hayat Khan Baloch. He will face Nazeer Sobi of PTI who had contested the last election as an independent candidate.

PML-N has fielded Haji Obaidullah Khan Shadikhel in NA-71 which was vacated by Imran Khan. PTI has fielded Malik Waheed in this constituency after the party stalwart, Ayela Malik, was disqualified for a fake degree. Malik is a cousin of Ayela. An interesting contest is expected in the constituency as Shadikhel and Eisakhel tribes are backing the PML-N candidate.

PML-N has fielded Mian Abdul Mannan in NA-83, Faisalabad where general elections were postponed due to the death of a candidate.

Ch Sarfraz Afzal is a PML-N candidate in PP-6, Rawalpindi (vacated by Ch Nisar Ali Khan), Azad Ali Tabassam in PP-51 (vacated by Ch Afzal Sahi), Akhtar Abbas Bosal PP-118 Mandi Bahauddin (vacated by Ch Moonis Elahi of PML-Q), Mansha Ullah Butt in PP-123 Sialkot (vacated by Khwaja Muhammad Asif), Noor Ameen Wattoo, PP-193, Okara (vacated by Mian Moeen Wattoo of N-Leagu), Zubair Khan Boloch in PP-210, Lodhran, (vacated by independent candidate Muhammad Siddiq Khan), Rana Babar Hussain Abid in PP-217, Hassam Din Khosa in PP-243 Dera Ghazi Khan (vacated by his father Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa), Abdul Qadir Mamdot in PP-247, Rajanpur (vacated by Shahbaz Sharif), Hamid Nawaz Khan in PP-254, Mufaffargarh, Raees Muhammad Mahmood Ahmad in PP-289, Rahim Yar Khan, (vacated by independent candidate Makhdoom Khusro Baktiar), and Maulvi Yar Khan in PP-292, Rahim Yar Khan (vacated by Makhdoom Syed Mustafa Mahmood of PPP).

The PML-N is supporting Javed Dasti, the brother of Jamshed Dasti who won the last election in NA-177 as an independent candidate and joined N-League.

In KPK, JUI-F is trying to muster support of PML-N for supporting the PML-N presidential candidate. The JUI-F has fielded its candidates on three national and three provincial seats of the total nine. NA-25, DI Khan-cum-Tank and NA-27, Lukki Marwat, are the seats vacated by Maulana Fazalur Rehman. Maulana Asad Mehmood and Maulana Ataur Rehman, son and brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, respectively, have been fielded in these constituencies. In NA-25 (DI Khan-Cum-Tank) PTI candidate and runner-up in the last election, Engineer Dawar Khan Kundi, is in the run and is expected to give a tough time to his rival as Kundis are rallying around him.

The third JUI-F NA seat was vacated by Akram Khan Durrrani. In return for support on these seats, JUI-F last month also reached an understanding with ANP; a party which is mainly vying for three seats, KP-23 Mardan, vacated by former Chief Minister Haider Khan Hoti, NA-1 Peshawar where former loser but potential candidate Ghulam Ahmad Bilour is repeating the contest against PTI’s Gull Bacha Khan who will try to defend the seat vacated by his party chief Imran Khan, and NA-5 Noshehra (vacated by PTI’s Pervez Khattak). PTI candidate Asad Qaiser had vacated NA-13 Swabi. The party is defending all these seats tooth and nail. The PTI has fielded Dr Imran on NA-5 who is also enjoying support of JI. Pervez Khattak had won this seat with a huge margin of over 50,000 votes, so PTI is in sight to retain this seat.

A close fight is expected in KP-27 Mardan and KP-42 Hangu which fell vacant, respectively, due to the murder of Imran Khan Mahmand and Fareed Khan, elected as independent candidates, but later joined PTI. In KP-27, PTI has fielded a potential candidate, Engineer Adil Nawaz Khan.