LAHORE: While a neck and neck contest is expected between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the by-elections for NA-137, Nankana Sahib slated for Sunday the ruling party appears confident of retaining the seat.
Brigadier (R) Imtiaz Shah, who is contesting the by-polls as an independent candidate, is being backed by the PTI. Shuzra Mansab is the ruling party’s candidate for the by-election. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has awarded a ticket to Shah Jehan Bhatti.
The seat had fallen vacant following the demise of Rai Mansab Ali Khan of the PML-N. “The PML-N will secure an emphatic victory. Khan was a veteran who had been elected for the first time in 1960. The party has been working for the people of Nankana and they will elect the daughter of their late leader,” Rana Muhammad Arshad said.
Arshad, who has been monitoring the election campaign of the party’s candidate in the district, said the PML-N had been following all the rules and regulations of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He said no federal or provincial minister had visited the district. Arshad said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had not been able to commiserate with the family of the deceased due to the scheduled by-elections.
“The PML-N will secure a comfortable majority. It is in an extremely good position,” he said. He said many people who were formerly associated with the PTI and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had joined the PML-N and were campaigning for Mansab. Arshad said these included Asghar Bhatti, Rauf Qadri, Tahir Miraj Gujjar, Malik Zulqarnain Dogar, Rana Jameel Gul Khan, Sardar Kashif Dogar, Ali Agha, Rai Sajjad Kharal and Rai Ghulam Abbas Kharal.
He said the fact that the PTI had not awarded a ticket to Shah despite openly endorsing his candidature reflected the hypocritical nature of the party. “His (Shah) electoral symbol is a rabbit but all his posters carry the picture of PTI chairman Imran Khan,” Arshad said.
PTI Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry said the party was backing Shah as it did not want to cede space to the PML-N. “We have resolved not to participate in elections. This is our principled stance but we will definitely back someone against the ruling party,” Chaudhry said.
PPP Central Punjab president Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo said he had been touring the province to obtain the input of party activists regarding the formulation of a policy framework for the party. He said the PPP would stage a comeback in the Punjab. Wattoo dared the government to make the report of a judicial commission on the June 17 Model Town violence public.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2015.
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