The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will be holding a grand power show in the NA-249 constituency, where a by-poll is slated for April 29, following the arrival of PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz in Karachi, PML-N MNA from Sindh Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das Kohistani confirmed to The Express Tribune on Thursday.
The MNA said Maryam, who was unwell for the past few days, would be reaching Karachi on April 24 and visit the NA-249 constituency.
"A big power show will be held in area and Maryam Nawaz will address the participants of the PML-N rally there," he added.
The rally will be the PML-N's first grand show after a rift in the opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) over the issue of en masse resignations from the assemblies.
According to sources in the PML-N, Maryam will also be holding meetings with the editors of newspapers, business community and her party's leaders during her visit to the metropolis.
The NA-249 seat had fallen vacant after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI's) Faisal Vawda had stepped down as an MNA to assume the role of a senator.
There are 339,552 registered voters in the constituency, where 277 polling stations have been set up. All of these polling stations have been declared either sensitive or highly sensitive.
"We are installing CCTV cameras at the polling stations, where police and Rangers and police personnel will be deployed for security purposes," provincial election commissioner Aijaz Anwar Chauhan told The Express Tribune, warning that strict action would be taken against persons violating the election code of conduct.
The PML-N has fielded former finance minister Miftah Ismail in the by-poll, against PTI's Amjad Iqbal Afridi, Pakistan Peoples Party's Qadir Khan Mandokhail, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Muhammad Mursaleen, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) chief Mustafa Kamal and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan's (TLP's) Nazir Ahmed, to name a few.
The Awami National Party, which parted ways with the PDM in support of the PPP, has announced support for Ismail in the NA-249 by-poll, and so has the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl.
Hopeful of win
The PTI, however, is hopeful of another victory in the constituency. "The people of Pakistan want to see a change. They are tired of the two-party system, led by Sharif and Zardari families. Our slogan of 'Naya Pakistan' is becoming a realityand it will pave the way for the PTI's win here," maintained PTI candidate Afridi.
When asked about the reports of a decline in the PTI's popularity, he denied the reports. Apart from Afridi, PSP head Mustafa Kamal is also hopeful about winning the by-election.
"People have been disappointed by the performance of the current government. Now I hope to win the seat with a significant margin of votes," he contended.
Similarly, PPP's Mandokail maintains that it is his turn to steal the show as the performance of the Sindh government has been "abysmal" and people are appreciative of the liberal and progressive policies of his party on various issues.
In the last general election, Mandokhail had been able to bag just 7,236 votes in the constituency, which was even less than TLP's candidate, who had polled 23,981 votes. However, now a question mark remains on the fate of the TLP in the constituency, with the federal government deciding to ban the party.
Vawda, who bagged 35,344 votes, had won the 2018 general election in the constituency, with the PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif trailing closely behind with 34,626 votes. Around 8,000 votes in favour of Shehbaz were rejected in the last general elections. Meanwhile, the MQM-P candidate had polled 13,534 votes.
Back then, Shehbaz had claimed had his votes not been rejected, he would have won the seat.
The sentiment has been echoed by Ismail.
"The 2018 election was rigged and hijacked. If the election was free and fair, the PML-N would have surely won in NA-249, and across Pakistan," he claimed.
He said if he won the by-poll, his priority would be ensuring the availability of potable water in the area, development of infrastructure and providing people access to education and health facilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2021.