LAHORE: With the general elections approaching, the candidates contesting from Lahore’s NA-123 – the once known stronghold of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – regardless of what party they belong to, are gearing up with high hopes of achieving success.
At least thirteen candidates are contesting from the constituency including PML-N’s Malik Riaz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Mehar Wajid Azeem, Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Zahid Iqbal Malik, Mutahida Majlais-e-Amal (MMA’s) Hafiz Abdul Wadood, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP’s) Latif Khan Saraa, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek’s Tauseef Akmal Khan and Independent candidates including Asif Mahmood, Amjad Khan, Zaman Ali, Faraz Hashmi, Mian Mahmood Ahmad and Hamayun Akhtar Khan, however, the toughest contest is expected between the candidates of PML-N and PTI.
A mixed trend has been observed in the constituency as those, who were previously known to be PML-N supporters, have been found supporting the PTI and several PTI voters are supporting PML-N’s candidate.
A former aide of PML-N, who was not awarded a party ticket in the last elections, told Pakistan Today that the locals had decided to vote for a native of the area. He said that it was unanimously decided during a meeting held two months ago that the people would not put their votes in favour of an outsider.
The religious vote in NA-123 seems to be divided as at least three religious groups are contesting i.e. MMA, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek and TLP. According to a survey, these religious groups are in a position to bag around 20,000 to 25,000 votes.
After the new delimitations, most part of NA-123 is the same as it was of NA-118. The constituency had been known as one of the strongholds of PML-N for it had dominated the area since 1988, but during the general elections of 2013, a major vote shift was witnessed as PTI gave a tough competition to the PML-N-fielded candidate.
During the 2008 general elections, PML-N fielded Malik Riaz succeeded with a huge margin while in 2013 he defeated PTI’s Hamid Zaman in a close call. Riaz secured 102,000 votes while Hamid Khan bagged some 59,000. Hamid bagging a large number of votes, proved that the PML-N had somewhat lost its might.
The said constituency, which by the way is among the ones PTI demanded an investigation over rigging accusations following last polls, includes Shahdara, Shahdara Town, Begum Kot, Kala Khatai Raod, Narowal Road, Jia Moosa, Jahangir Tomb Ravi Clifton, Sagian, Alipura Bund Road, (Alipura, Saddique Pura, Badami Bagh, Qila Lachman Singh, Timber Market Ravi Road, Toheedabad Ravi Road, Sadique Colony Ravi Road, Bukhtawar Park Ravi Road, Al Madad Park Ravi Road, Shamas Pura Ravi Link Road, Sabzi Mandi. Rasool Nagar Wandala road, Mohalla Kaky Zaian, Kachi Abadi Mustafabad, Chatha Park, Abbas Nagar, Qasim Park, Mian Feroz Park and Karam Nagar.
The total number of registered voters in the constituency is 397,399 out of which 227,033 are male and 170,366 are female voters. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has established 299 polling stations with 945 polling booths; 535 for male and 410 for female.
Most of the electoral areas of provincial assembly’s two constituencies PP-144 and PP-145 also fall under NA-123. In PP-144, PML-N has fielded Samiullah Khan who is supposed to give a tough time to PTI’s Chaudhary Khalid Mahmood. Moreover, PML-N’s former MPA Majid Zahoor is also contesting from this constituency as an independent candidate, which can lead to Samiullah Khan’s defeat.
In PP-145, PML-N’s seasoned politician and former MPA Ghazal Saleem Butt is once again confident to win the seat where he will face PTI’s Malik Muhammad Asif Javaid. In Butt’s favour is the fact that he belongs to a well-known family of the area while Javaid, on the other hand, will receive votes in his party’s name.