The by-election scheduled for October 11 in NA-122 has become vitally important for both the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as this constituency is among the four where PTI wanted a complete verification of the votes as PTI Chairman Imran Khan suspected that his party’s mandate was stolen in the constituency through massive rigging.
On the other hand, PML-N leaders think that the constituency is their stronghold as they won three previous elections here in 2002, 2008 and 2013.
Former speaker of National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq defeated PTI Chairman Imran Khan in May 2013 general elections with a margin of over 8,000 votes. This time the PTI has decided to field Abdul Aleem Khan who was considered the PTI’s financial lifeline during the party’s Dharna days. Ayaz Sadiq will again be the PML-N’s candidate.
The constituency consists of areas such as Samanabad, Ferozepur Road, Ichhra, Shah Jamal, Garhi Shahu, Dharram Pura and Upper Mall. A random survey of the constituency shows that support for the two parties is evenly split.
Zeeshan Haider, 35, a practicing lawyer and resident of Ferozepur Road, told Pakistan Today that he would cast his vote for PML-N on October 11 because he thought that the party had a plan to change the fortunes of the country.
“The ongoing China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is in essence a project that can change the fate of our country and we can become an Asian Tiger. The perennial load shedding in the country will be wiped out during the tenure of the incumbent government,” Haider said.
Fawad Arif, a trader and a resident of Ichhra market told Pakistan Today that his community had certain grievances with the ruling government in the wake of newly imposed withholding tax but he would definitely cast his vote for PML-N because of his past association with the party. Fawad said that the leaders of his party were easily accessible to the traders’ fraternity, and while the business community had reservations about some of the government’s policies, he would still cast his vote for PML-N.
The upcoming local elections have added to the hustle and bustle at the election offices of both parties in the constituency.
Engineer Umair Khan, 30, who is contesting the election of the vice chairman in Union Council 199 in Shah Jamal on PTI’s ticket, told Pakistan Today that PTI would retain the seat in the by-polls as he thought that the seat was won by his party in 2013 also but their mandate was stolen by PML-N. Umair thought it was a good sign for him that LB elections were so close and the campaign in by-elections would help him in LB polls.
Hafiz Asad Ubaid who is a close relative of the principal of Jamia Ashrafia seminary, is an influential figure for people living on both sides of the Ferozepur Road. Ubaid is actively campaigning for PML-N.
Chaudhry Billa, a shopkeeper in Samanabad told Pakistan Today that he would cast his vote for PTI because of his close association with MPA Mian Aslam Iqbal.
“I have been casting my vote according to the wishes of Aslam Iqbal for a long time because I can convey my concerns directly to him,” Billa said.
A government servant based in Samanabad who did not wish to be named told Pakistan Today that he had told MPA Aslam Iqbal that if Aslam himself was contesting the elections then he would have cast his vote for him. But if Aslam is not on the ballet, then he would decide for himself. He further said that he was going to cast his vote for PML-N because he thought that PTI would not be able to get development funds even if they won because they were sitting on the opposition benches.
“Abdul Aleem Khan has spent millions of rupees in publicity during his campaign but his chances are bleak because of his tinted past,” he said.
Iram Javed, a working woman who lives in Garhi Shahu told Pakistan Today that she was a diehard supporter of PTI because this party advocated change and discouraged family-based politics and that was why her vote would go to Aleem Khan.
Another resident of Garhi Shahu, Faiz Muhammad, said, “I have never seen Sardar Ayaz in my area after winning the election and he has denied me a job in railway which he had promised before the election. I will be voting for Aleem Khan as he initiated several development projects in the area when he was a provincial minister.”
Dr Ahmed Mukhtar of the same area who cast his vote for PTI in 2013 said that he had decided not to vote this time and would be sitting at home on election day as he had realized that politicians had nothing to give to the country.
“This country needs a government of technocrats on emergency basis if we really want to see Pakistan making progress. In Garhi Shahu, the drinking water has been mixed with sewerage water for a long time but no one has bothered to take it seriously”, Dr Mukhtar lamented.
Former vice president of PML-Q in Punjab and former MPA Haji Imdad Hussain, who is the chief organizer of Aleem Khan’s campaign in NA-122 told Pakistan Today that there were 23 union councils in the constituency and Aleem Khan was making sure he went to each and every door. He said that the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to deploy Rangers was a good omen for ensuring transparency during the polls.
There are 488,529 registered voters in the constituency. Among them, 268,057 are males and 220,472 are female voters. ECP has added 162,501 young voters to the list since the general election of 2013. This is being regarded as a good sign for the PTI as the party brands itself as a party of the youth. There were 326,028 registered voters in 2013. Ayaz Sadiq secured 93,389 while Imran Khan received 84,517 votes.