LAHORE  -  The by-polls results on four City seats count much to gauge popularity of the mainstream political parties, public acceptance of their narrative against each other and get themselves lined up for future politics in the country.

The city is going to have by-polls on each two National Assembly and Punjab Assembly seats on which the main rivals, the PTI and the PML-N, have fielded potential candidates whose presence in the assembly will not only improve their respective tally but also surely provide them a big political mileage. Although it is a high stakes election for both yet for the PML-N it means more than victory. On the other the PTI is likely to get a big political stride if it succeeded in getting another NA seat after defending the one it won in the July 25 general election.  The City has served as political stronghold to the PML-N since 1997 and this fact was vindicated in the last general polls when 10 of 14 NA seats went to this party turning down the predictions made in favour of the PTI previously. Sweeping the city by-polls, would mean not only a dent to the PTI but it will also dispel the negative impression about cracks in the Party besides sending vibes of the Party strength to other parts. Therefore, both the parties have fielded candidates on the seats after much consideration.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Khwaja Saad Rafiq are the main leaders of the PML-N. Abbasi is contesting in NA-124 Lahore which has been traditionally pet and confirmed seat of this Party over the last three decades. Last time it was won by Hamza Shehbaz Sharif. Khawja Saad Rafiq after facing defeat at the hand of PTI Chairman Imran Khan in NA-131 in the general election, is again trying his luck to reach the assembly. Their rival candidates of the PTI are Humayun Akhtar Khan in NA-131 and Ghulam Mohiyuddin Dewan in NA-124.

Humayan Akhtar an old campaigner is receiving the dividend of the past services he rendered to the constituency as minister during the Musharraf era. His old supporters coupled with PTI, have come to the arena to bolster his position. His campaign has mostly been around the corruption charges in housing scheme and railways against Saad. As such his win may amount to public acceptance of that narrative and added trouble to the Party after its President is already facing the NAB investigations. Akhtar appearance in the Assembly may be irritating to some PTI members on account of his past politics, yet it is sure to add a seasoned and sensible leader to the Party who can also serve as bridge between the PTI and PML-Q and the Balochistan parties. The feats of his father, Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman in Afhan war, have been credited at the political level by all.

Th arrival of Khwaja Saad and Khakan Abbasi in the Parliament will also mean increase in the strength the PML-N to counter the treasury and make it more compact with other Opposition partners.  The campaign of Abbasi is being spearheaded by Hamza Shehbaz himself that shows how much importance the PML-N is giving to his victory in the by-polls. Abbasi a true loyal of Nawaz Sharif even did not shirk taking the brunt of Sharif’s interview on Pakistan role in Mumbai attack of 2008, that had sparked widespread controversy. His presence in the House would largely mean representation of Nawaz Sharif himself.

His opponent Mohiyuddin Deewan, a Kashimiri, is running the campaign knowing temperament of the Lahorites of the walled city. His victory would reflect the overall acceptance of the PTI policies and the narrative it built on the alleged corruption of the PML-N rulers. It will also means the city is ready to give space to the PTI to deliver and meet its promises. Deewan’s win will not only raise the seats tally of the PTI but also show trait to spring surprise on its part besides diluting the rigging charges in the general election. This all, in view of the observers, may shatter the ranks of the PML-N.

As to two PA seats namely PP-164 and PP-165, they were vacated by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. Saiful Maluk Khokhar of the PML-N is facing Mansha Sindhu of PTI in PP-165 while in PP-164 Sohail Shaukat Butt of PML-N is facing Muhammad Yousaf of the PTI. For both parties these two PA seats have much importance as they have to narrow down the PML-N gap of some 15 seats between the PTI, and for the PTI, raise tally to provide it comfortable position in power.

Like the general election the PML-N still apprehends rigging in the by-elections. And to foreclose its chance, the Party has devised a mechanism to keep its 100 teams of workers with the ROs concerned and monitor the election activity through cell phone and video shoots throughout the province.