LAHORE: Following the delimitation process, NA-129 was chalked out by clubbing together several urban and rural areas that previously fell under NA-128 and NA-127.
The areas, previously dominated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), may give out an electoral result that could send tremors across the political plains of Lahore.
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had himself contested an election from these areas and other PML-N leaders including former finance minister Ishaq Dar and National Assembly (NA) Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq have clinched electoral victories from these areas as well.
In this last by-election, Sadiq had snatched victory over Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Aleem Khan by a mere 4,000 votes.
This time around, the voters seem to have different things in mind.
Pakistan Today spoke to PML-N Khawaja Bihari Camp In-charge Muhammad Yasin, who said, “Lord Mayor colonel (r) Mubashir is one of us and he is always present whenever there is a celebration or a funeral.”
“Filtration plants have been installed and roads have been renewed,” he added.
Speaking about the impact of Nawaz’s return on voters, Yasin said, “Nawaz and his daughter have been incarcerated without a reason and no corruption has been proved against them, this is why the voters will come out in full strength as a show of solidarity with Nawaz.”
Nasir Malhi, who owns a small bakery in the constituency and runs a PML-N local office, explained to Pakistan Today, “Hidden powers are working against Nawaz and no corruption was proven against him which is why they used an Iqama to boot him out.”
“The elite are anti-democratic and they don’t want people like Nawaz, who represent the people, to stay in power,” he added.
Nasir’s brother, Qaiser, told Pakistan Today, “I have voted for Nawaz ever since I legally could and since then I have seen the elite working against him because he is a true democratic leader.”
Muhammad Atif, who works for a private company and lives in the area, said, “The people don’t want roads instead we want schools since there is no government school in the area which is worth sending our children to.”
“It is the job of the local government to provide infrastructure and the members of assemblies are elected to give us policies but Nawaz’s government has only indulged in corruption which was proven in court,” he added.
On the other hand, the constituency saw for the first time a third party in the area, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
Pakistan Today spoke to TLP Camp In-charge Hafiz Ali Raja Chishti, who said, “All the other political parties signed off on the bill that had the ‘amended version’ of the finality of Prophethood (PBUH) clause so they have all failed the people.”
“There is a large chunk of people in this area that sits in other camps because of neighbourhood relations but they have vowed to secretly vote for us,” he added.
On a question regarding the TLP’s lack of persons with administrative experience or the lack of persons with a background in finance or foreign policy, Chishti did not have an answer and said that it is all “part of our manifesto”.
“We will do better than coming on the third position this time,” Chishti explained.
Pakistan Today then spoke to locals in the market who were not active workers of any political party.
Elderly Sheikh Arshad Ahmad said, “Imran Khan called the people of Punjab donkeys and a large chunk of locals has disassociated themselves from PTI in this constituency because of this.”
Muhammad Naseer told Pakistan Today, “Imran is not dependable, he takes extreme stances and then retracts his position.”
He questioned, “How can I trust a person like this once he is my prime minister?”
Union Council 185 Councillor Pervez Akhtar said, “Why has Hanif Abbasi’s verdict come so close to the elections while the verdict on Nawaz’s appeal was delayed till after the elections?”
“Moves such as this has rallied party support in the area and Ayaz Sadiq is surely going to clinch the NA seat this time once again,” Akhtar added.
A person sitting in another local PTI camp, who wished to remain anonymous, and told Pakistan Today, “Two local councillors, Rana Sajjad Hussain and minority councillor Manat Barkat, who had previously supported PML-N joined PTI 10 minutes ago.”
“Pakistan is in the grey list because of Nawaz’s statement,” added a local tailor who claimed to have given up his shop for 20 days to be used as a local PTI office.
Pakistan Today also spoke to one of the Councillors who have changed political allegiance just before the upcoming polls and he said, “PML-N has always betrayed its workers and PML-N leaders are hypocritical in nature.”
The disgruntled councillor also explained to Pakistan Today, “Nawaz’s return will not translate into increased votes for the PML-N as he is a convict and he has now returned to face punishment for his crimes.”
Ahmed Saleem said, “This area has a lot of drug peddlers and my brother was a victim of drug abuse before his death.”
“PML-N has leaders such as Hanif Abbasi who only work for their personal ambition,” he added.
The lord mayor holds considerable sway with the locals in this constituency and his mother still reportedly “lives in the area”.
Earlier during the local government elections, Nawaz’s move to stand by his man colonel (r) Mubashir even when Shehbaz Sharif allegedly supported another candidate seems to have paid off as many voters who support the colonel have vowed to vote for PML-N.
On the other hand, TLP has successfully managed to create an anti-PML-N sentiment in the area which has allowed PTI’s vote bank to considerably grow.
Saad, Furkan and Wasim, a group of friends who are neighbours and work at a bicycle repairing shop, told Pakistan Today, “We support Pakistan and right now Imran is the only leader who seems to be working for Pakistan and not his personal ambition.”
Majority of the voters from urban localities have also expressed loyalty to Imran’s candidate.
On the other hand, Maryam Nawaz’s son-in-law, who also lives in the area, is not politically active.
With an anti-PML-N sentiment, the TLP garnering minute success in breaking Nawaz’s vote bank and politically aware locals focusing on health policy and foreign policy factors such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list, NA-129 is likely to ‘swing’ in favour of Imran’s candidate Aleem Khan but even if it does, it will be by a marginal fraction.