MULTAN - While the PPP appears to be heading towards extinction in Multan, the PML-N is in driving seat with PTI as its major opponent in upcoming third phase of local government election, shows the trend observed from the filing of nomination papers.

The PML-N issued tickets to the highest number of candidates for Chairman/Vice Chairman offices compared to any other political party. Against 185 Union Council Chairmen/Vice Chairmen seats in the district, the PML-N issued tickets to 160 candidates. The PTI followed with 137 tickets and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) 13 Chairmen/Vice Chairmen as well as 15 Vice Chairmen. Once the largest political party on the political landscape of Multan - the PPP - is trailing far behind from PML-N and PTI as it could field only 15 Chairman/Vice Chairman candidates in 185 constituencies.

The statistics indicate that the PPP is out of contest for the mayoral and chairman district council offices and the real match will be between PML-N and PTI. Political observers are of the opinion that the PTI has replaced PPP in Multan. Having bagged two seats - UC-25 and UC-60 - unopposed, the PML-N has got a psychological boost over its opponents in mayoral run.

The polling for the election to the 185 Chairmen/Vice Chairmen seats in Multan district will take place on December 5. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) says that with the addition of 151,480 new votes, a total of 2,262,047 voters including 1,220,783 men and 1,041,249 women will use their right to vote. With over 19,000 election staff, the ECP has set up 1,797 polling stations including 543 for males, 583 females and 620 combined.

As the electioneering has gained momentum, the cracks in the ranks of both PML-N and PTI have become quite visible. Different groups of unhappy office bearers and workers, who are annoyed for being denied tickets, have surfaced overnight. If the PML-N workers and office bearers are running their election campaigns against the candidates contesting election on the ticket of their party, the charged workers of PTI have gone even one step farther. They have got an electoral sign Ballaybaaz (batsman) from the election commission which resembles with the PTI sign bat. Even the candidates with the sign batsman have got printed their posters and banners on party flags. The PTI leadership has expressed serious concerns on the issuance of a resembling electoral sign to candidates and its district president Ijaz Janjua says that the party will move court against this sign. “Issuance of such signs and use of state resources for development purpose to bribe voters is pre-poll rigging. Despite use of such tactics against us, we’ll inflict humiliating defeat on N League,” Mr. Janjua claimed while talking to this scribe.

The statistics show that the PML-N granted tickets to 68 candidates for Chairman/Vice Chairman offices against as many constituencies (UC 1 to 68) lying in the vicinity of municipal corporation. Two PML-N candidates—-Haji Saed Ansari Chairman and Arshad Dogar Vice Chairman from UC 25 as well as Munawar Ehsan Qureshi Chairman and Nadir Sardar Vice Chairman UC 60—-have won unopposed.

The district president of PML-N Bilal Butt declared the unopposed victory a visible indicator of public’s overwhelming support for the party. “Let the opponents continue their blame game. The unopposed success of our two candidates tells all about the result of upcoming election and that’s why they’re so perturbed,” he added.

The PML-N has also granted tickets to 92 other Chairman/Vice Chairman candidates against 117 constituencies (UC 67 to 185) for district council election. The party has declared 25 constituencies Open as no one is issued ticket here. Out of 25 Open constituencies, as many as 17 are located in Shujabad town and three Jalalpur Pirwala.

The PTI has granted tickets to 65 Chairman/Vice Chairman candidates in municipal corporation limits as two constituencies are already won by the PML-N and one—-UC 67 Neel Kot—-is declared open. Against 117 district council constituencies, the PTI has granted 72 tickets while 45 constituencies are left Open.

The PPP granted nine tickets to candidates in municipal corporation area and just six district council. PPP city president Usman Bhatti claimed that another 18 candidates were contesting election with the party’s support. “All those anticipating demise of PPP are now hiding their faces after our historic success in LG polls in Sindh. We’ll win seats in third phase in Punjab too,” he claimed. He alleged that the Punjab Governor distributed the PML-N tickets and the Multan DCO acted as organiser of this party.

The JI initially issued tickets to 10 candidates in municipal corporation area and four district council. However, the JI leaders along with the leaders of other religious parties announced the birth of an alliance of religious parties. They claim that the Islam Dost Mahaaz will support 55 panels of Chairmen/Vice Chairmen and 330 councillors in the election. The new alliance is consisted of JI, JUP, JUI-F and Jamiat Ahle Hadith.