NA-120 by-poll vital barometer for PML-N
The stage is set for the September 17 electoral contest for the crucial Lahore seat that fell vacant after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification. It pitches two formidable ladies, both doughty fighters, against each other, PML-N’s Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif versus PTI’s Dr. Yasmin Rashid, activist and social worker. The former took little interest in politics until Nawaz Sharif’s ouster on October 12, 1999, after which she was appointed PML-N President and single-handedly managed a politics of protest until her husband’s exile to Saudi Arabia, resigning from the post in 2002. Yasmin Rashid put up a courageous fight against then two-time Prime Minister in the 2013 general elections, garnering 52,321 votes to Nawaz Sharif’s 91,744, from a constituency and area that was considered his ‘home’ seat since 1985.
Though the PML-N has swept recent by-polls, the result of this particular by-election will be considered a litmus test for the PML-N in the midst of its present ‘troubles’. The PML-N and the Sharif family itself now appear to be a house divided. Nawaz Sharif’s numbing lifelong disqualification, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s diplomatic ‘back-ache’, distancing of senior leadership from the G.T.Road antics, the mysterious reaction of Shahbaz Sharif’s ‘cadet’ branch of the family, especially his spouse’s recent tweets, all point to rumblings of discontent both within the party and the first family, earlier unambiguously synonymous with one another. The by-election will also be a test-case to gauge the post-disqualification mood of the PML-N rank and file and the moral impact, if any, of the Supreme Court July 28 judgement on the party faithful. NA-120 is a do-or-die struggle that the besieged PML-Nwill have to win for its wider ramifications.
But the PML-N still rules in the Centre and Punjab, it has solid support among the markets, shops and traders in the vast constituency, and many tricks up its sleeve. The PTI candidate has alleged pre-poll rigging and filed a petition in the Election Commission of Pakistan to ban the former Prime Minister from canvassing in the constituency. This NA-120 encounter promises to be a closely watched and mouth-watering affair.