The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Sunday won the battle royal in the National Assembly constituency of NA-122 after polling 4,161 votes more than its rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) but could not secure the Punjab Assembly’s PP-147 seat.
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the PML-N defeated Abdul Aleem Khan of the PTI in a close contest in the NA-122 by-poll to reclaim the coveted Lahore seat.
PTI leaders appeared to take comfort from the narrow margin of the loss. Aleem Khan pointed out that the PTI had won PP-147, which the PML-N had won in the 2013 elections. “If Imran Khan had lost by 9,000 votes, a PTI worker reduced the gap to just 3,000 votes, he said. “If the government had not reworked the voter lists and moved some voters out of NA-122, I would have won this. We have secured two legs of the throne of Lahore today.”
PTI leader Chaudhry Sarwar said: “Loss by a few thousand votes is no real loss. Our confidence after today’s election has increased, not decreased.”
The seat had fallen vacant after an election tribunal unseated Sadiq on a petition filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, which also resulted in the former’s ouster as the NA speaker.
According to unofficial results consolidated from different polling stations, Sadiq bagged 76,204 votes while his opponent secured 72,043 ballots.
In the PP-147 by-poll, however, PTI’s Shoaib Siddiqui defeated PML-N’s Mohsin Latif. As per the unofficial results, Siddiqui bagged 31,993 votes while his opponent, who had won the seat in the 2013 general elections, secured 28,641 votes.
After the NA-122 results were consolidated, members and supporters of the ruling party at Sadiq’s central office took to the streets to celebrate their victory.
The PML-N leadership congratulated Sadiq, set to reclaim his lost position of NA speaker. In a tweet, Maryam Nawaz told Sadiq that he had “put an end to politics of destruction, abuse [and] accusations”. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari congratulated Maryam Nawaz on Twitter on the NA-122 win.
Later, addressing the media in Model Town, Sadiq said he couldn’t thank God enough. He also thanked his party’s leadership for supporting him all the way. He was flanked by PML-N central leader Hamza Shahbaz.
Congratulating Sadiq on his win, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said Sadiq’s victory was the victory of politics of public service, adding that “fake politics of those trying to purchase the conscience of the people of Lahore with notes has been exposed”.
He said: “Conscious people have buried the politics of lies, allegations and hypocrisy forever. Politics of public service has once again won. Politics of stubbornness and of those creating hurdles in the journey of developing the country have been defeated.”
Later Aleem Khan claimed a number of voters of NA-122 were moved out of the constituency. “This is our main concern. We wrote to the election commission this morning. Our committee will sit and review evidence from the 2013 general elections and today’s by-election.”
Sarwar said this was the first time he had participated in an election in Pakistan and nowhere in the civilised world had he seen government departments actively participating in the elections like in Pakistan.
Voter turnout for the NA-122 and PP-147 by-elections picked up momentum in the afternoon, as large queues started forming in front of the polling stations.
A large number of people – men and women, young and old – thronged to the polling stations in Garhi Shahu and Samanabad, and on Multan Road, Allama Iqbal Road and Bahawalpur Road.
Compared to other localities, a high turnout of female voters was observed at polling stations in Garhi Shahu and Samanabad.
Young voters were seen queuing up outside polling stations an hour before the voting started. Some of them said they were voting for the first time, while many had also cast their votes in the previous general elections.
Activists of PML-N and PTI were charged throughout the day: they gathered at their camp offices set up near the polling stations, shouted slogans in favour of their respective candidates and rallied on major thoroughfares.
More than 8,000 police officials and hundreds of army and Rangers troops were deployed as part of the security arrangements for the by-elections.
No major incident was reported. However, a few altercations broke out between PML-N and PTI supporters in some localities. Four people were injured in Basti Saidan Shah and two in Rehmanpura during the clashes.
Meanwhile, the polling staff at several stations lamented “insufficient” compensation for electoral duties. Objections were also voiced against army troops allegedly barring polling agents of independent candidates from entering the stations.
At some polling stations, no more than one agent was allowed inside, complained some party workers.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.