LAHORE: By-elections were held on two national and two provincial assembly constituencies, NA-124, NA-131, PP-164 and PP-165, on Sunday, amid strict security on Sunday.
Polling process begun at 08:00am and continued till 05:00pm without break. Polling turnout remained low at almost all polling stations, including in lower and middle-income neighbourhoods and posh localities.
Though, a total of 370 candidates participated in the electoral run for 35 constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies across Pakistan, but the real battle was witnessed in NA-124 and NA-131. Both the constituencies of Lahore have great significance for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as Prime Minister Imran Khan had won NA-131 seat in July 25 general elections while former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was contesting from NA-124.
In NA-124, major competition was held between former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PTI’s Dewan Ghulam Mohiuddin, while in NA-131, a close competition was witnessed between PTI’s Humayun Akhtar Khan and PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafiq.
Different voting patterns were witnessed in upper and lower income neighbourhoods. In posh areas of the Defence Housing Authority, Cavalry Ground, Punjab Housing Society and other adjoining residential colonies, most citizens cast their vote in favour of riling PTI, while in lower and middle-income area of RA Bazaar, Walton Road, Chungi Amer Sidhu, Nadirabad, Alfalah Town and Sultan Park voters’ tilt was witnessed in favour of the PML-N.
Survey of different polling stations showed that women and youth expressed great enthusiasm in polling process despite low voting turnout. Several specially-abled and senior citizens also cast their vote to strengthen democracy in the country.
Voters exercised their right to vote in early hours of the day in low and middle-income neighbourhoods while in posh localities voters reached late to polling stations. However, polling process continued till end of the polling time.
Estimate suggests that voting turnout remained between 20% and 25%, while in general election this percentage was around 50%.
General polling process remained peaceful in the city except a scuffle between PTI and PML-N worker is Farooqabad in which a few workers got some minor injuries. At Lalik Jan Chowk in DHA, the situation was about take an ugly turn when a large number of PTI and PML-N workers came in front of each other and chanted slogans against each other’s party. However, timely intervention of the city police and deployment of additional police force calmed down the situation by placing barbed wires and screen between PTI and PML-N polling camps. But charged workers of both political parties continued to chant slogans against each other’s party.
PTI candidate Humayun Akhtar Khan polled his vote in Allied School Cantt, while PML-N Khawaja Saad Rafiq cast his vote at Masjid Chowk Defence polling station. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited Government College of Technology but forgot to bring his national identity card and failed to cast his vote.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, voters expressed mix reaction over ongoing accountability drive, anti-encroachment campaign and PTI government’s decision to go for the IMF. Voters demanded of the government to do across the board accountability instead of one political party.
A middle-aged voter, Muhammad Alam, said Prime Minister Imran Khan has raised awareness among nation about corruption of the ruling elite. It is very heartening that the government is doing accountability but it should be across the board.
He asked the government to make quick strategy to bring back the looted money instead of an IMF loan.
Another citizen, Aruj Saleem, said it was positive changed that the government has given right of vote to overseas Pakistanis. She appreciated government’s campaign against encroachments and land grabbing and said change has started to show its colour in Pakistan.
Nouman Khawaja, a resident of Walton Road, said though it is difficult to speak against positive initiatives of the PTI government, but the accountability drive of the ruling party is focus on PML-N. He expressed his reservations over former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest in a dramatic manner. “No one is against accountability but it should be done across the board. Shehbaz Sharif has done a lot of development in Punjab but rewarded with corruption allegations,” he said.
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