lahore -  One of the most interesting electoral tests in Lahore is going to be in NA-118, a constituency where the decisive factors which were in play the last time have undergone a tremendous change.

This constituency consists of eight union councils, most of which are under-developed. It spans over the localities of Shahdara, Begum Kot, Jia Moosa, Qila Lachman Singh, Fruit Market, Timber Market, Loha Market, Aziz Colony, Faisal Park, Pangali Bagh, Siddiqia Colony and areas along Kala Khatai and Ravi Roads. Two katchi abadis, namely, Larex Colony and Bhutto Colony, are also part of the constituency with Arain, Kakayzai, Jats and Gujjars being the main clans.

The migrants from Narowal and Pathans from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, mostly forming the labour class, are also among the registered voters. Religious vote, stated to be over 5,000 in number, would be a contributing factor in success or defeat of any election candidate.

Malik Riaz of PML-N won this seat in 2008 by a wide margin of 32,000 votes. He had secured 55,999 votes, while Asif Hashmi of PPP was the first runner up with 24,712 votes, and Mian Azhar, an independent candidate, the second runner up with 11,073 votes. Riaz is a repeat candidate from PML-N for NA-118.  Background interviews with local people suggest that things have changed considerably in the last five years, especially after the PTI factor that had been missing in 2008. People believe that internal rifts of local PML-N leaders and social work done by Asif Hashmi in the recent past are going to influence the voting pattern on the polling day.

During a visit to the constituency, this scribe noticed some banners dislocated in the streets expressing disapproval of PML-N’s decision to nominate Khawaja Imran Nazir for PP-137 instead of Rana Muhammad Iqbal, who won the last election to this constituency. Locals said supporters of Rana Iqbal would not be voting for Malik Riaz and Imran Nazir. “If Malik Riaz wins this time, it would be with a narrow margin,” an angry PML-N activist told this scribe.

Interestingly, all political rivals of Malik Riaz are first-timers with no previous experience of election. But still, the PML-N candidate is not expected to have a smooth sailing he had in 2008 due to the new factors which may damage his vote bank.

The PPP has fielded Faraz Hashmi, son of Asif Hashmi, after the latter was declared ineligible to contest on technical grounds. Son of former Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman, Faraz Hashmi, is relying for his victory on social work undertaken by his father in the last five years.

Also, the constituency has a considerable number of beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme launched by the PPP government. Faraz is also banking on the Shia community vote which traditionally casts vote in favour of PPP candidates. He is also expecting to reap the rewards of previous government’ decision of running a shuttle train from Shahdara to Kot Lakhpat station and shifting back of Ravi Toll Plaza which had become a nuisance for Shahdara residents.

The PTI has fielded Hamid Zaman from NA-118. He is a first-timer and a businessman by profession. He would be seeking votes in the name of change and try to cash in on the disgruntled voters equally displeased with the PPP and the PML-N. It would be interesting to see how much dent he causes to the vote bank of the two major parties.

The PML-Q has not given its candidate in this constituency in line with a seat-adjustment agreement with the PPP.

The JI has given ticket to Mian Maqsood whose role in the contest, it is believed, would be of a spoiler. If he decides to get out of the race at the last moment as a result of some understanding between the JI and the PML-N, the latter would be the beneficiary.

The Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Noorani group has fielded Haji Abdul Majeed Muhammadi Saifi in this constituency. He is seeking votes on the slogan of stopping secular forces from coming to power.

In 2002 elections, Hafiz Salman Butt won from NA-119 obtaining 25484 votes. He was then the joint candidate of the PML-N and JI though technically he was an independent candidate. Mian Muhammad Azhar of PML-Q was the runner up with 21,641 votes while Ch Abdul Qadir of PPP had got 16,855. Two provincial seats, PP-137 and 138, fall under NA-118.

PP-137

Though two PPP candidates have filed their nomination papers from PP-137, but they are likely to withdraw in favour PML-Q candidate, Yousuf Ahad Malik, a former town nazim. Khawaja Imran Nazir is contesting from this provincial seat on a PML-N ticket. The PTI has fielded Yasir Gilani, a young chap, but a novice in politics. Rana Muhammad Iqbal of PML-N had won this seat in 2008 defeating Samiullah Khan of PPP.

PP-138

From PP-138, the PPP has asked Faraz Hashmi to contest. Dr Asad Ashraf, the winner of 2008 election, is no more in the contest this time. The PML-N has introduced Ghazali Butt who is a new face for the electorate. Mian Mehmood Ahmad, a former PML-N MPA is contesting from on PTI’s ticket.