LAHORE - The Supreme Court decision on holding by-election in NA-154, Lodhran, is going to bring the PML-N and the PTI to a tough fight.

The Election Tribunal had ordered re-polls in NA-154, besides barring PML-N candidate Siddique Khan Baloch from contesting any future election allegedly for holding a fake degree.

The Supreme Court set aside the Election Tribunal’s decision to disqualify PML-N legislator permanently and upheld its verdict for re-polls in NA-154.

The counsel for Siddiq Baloch, Shahzad Shaukat, contended in the apex court the whole case against his client was that his degree was not genuine, but no evidence was provided and the election tribunal gave its verdict, on the plea that he had failed to answer some questions about his academic qualification.

The SC verdict has set aside the lifetime disqualification which, in view of jurists, is a fresh definition to relevant provision of the Constitution. The Supreme Court stayed the Lodhran by-polls which were to be held on September 29.

The PML-N and the PTI are giving much importance to the by-polls as they will not only go to vindicate their respective stands on the fairness of the May 2013 general elections but also help them line up for the next elections. The PTI desperately needs a victory after defeats in consecutive eight by-polls since it ended its dharna in December last. NA-154 is a big hope to regain the lost political ground and boost morale of its voters and supporters. If the PTI wins Lodhran by-polls, it will go a long way to establishing it at a much larger political canvas to match the PML-N after the PPP which appears to have been wiped off in the Punjab. Most importantly, it will lend credence to the allegations of rigging in the May 2013 elections, which the ruling party would not like at any cost.

Although PTI is rather underdog after dharna, PML-N might not be oblivious of the surprise this party can give as Shaoib Siddiqui defeated a close relation of Sharifs, Mohsin Latif, on a Punjab Assembly seat in Lahore on October 11.

So far the allegations of rigging in the general elections have been strongly resisted by the PML-N government which had got a big heart on this count after a favourable verdict by the Judicial Commission. But PTI is still wrangling with the issue and is on the prowl to have any point from which it could lend new vigour to the rigging drive. Perhaps, for this reason PTI has not left chasing the crucial Lahore by-election despite losing it on October 11.

The PTI, expressing dissatisfaction over the voters’ lists of NA-122, Lahore, is collecting evidence to challenge the election of PML-N candidate Sardar Ayaz Sadiq against Tehreek’s Abdul Aleem Khan. Sardar had won the election with a thin margin of around 2,400 votes against the party claims of improving its May 2013 victory of over 8,000 to the margin of NA-19, Haripur, by-polls in which the N had routed the rival PTI with a huge margin of 38,112 votes. In support of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the PML-N had put extraordinary force to secure this target but it failed. If the PTI succeeds in preparing the case for the election tribunal about wrongs and manipulations in the electoral lists and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s election is once against scrapped, it can surely be a big blow to the ruling party while it will adversely affect its position in NA-154, Lodhran, by-election where its candidate is already on a tight rope on account of his academic qualification.

Reports suggest the option of fielding the son of Siddiq Baloch against the potential candidate of PTI, Janangir Tareen. How the ruling party will handle the changed situation in this another cliffhanger is a big question.

The PTI gave a tough time to the PML-N on an urban seat in its political home ground in Lahore. But the same day the party miserably failed in NA-144, Okara, to present a convincing show in this relatively rural constituency. PTI candidate Ashraf Sohna who joined this party after quitting PPP just two months ago remained third in the by-polls though PML-N also lost the election to an independent candidate.

NA-154, Lodhran, is going to be another tough fight and decisive for the parties on many counts.

Electioneering in the Lahore by-polls was highly costly that has raised questions about the Election Commission’s role in keeping the spending to the permitted limit. The next by-election whose date has yet to be announced is once again going to test the ECP’s mettle on expenditures’ control in electioneering.