OKARA: While the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had a neck and neck contest for NA-122 (Lahore V), the two parties had to face disappointment in NA-144 (Okara-II) where, according to unofficial results, an independent candidate won the by-election.
The independent candidate, Riazul Haq, bagged a whopping 83,250 votes, beating his rivals by a huge margin. The first runner-up, Chaudhry Ali Arif of the PML-N, polled 41,187 votes, while Muhammad Ashraf Sohna, who had recently quit the Pakistan Peoples Party to join the PTI, could clinch only 7,501 votes. Another independent candidate, Mehr Abdul Sattar, emerged as second runner-up, outperforming Sohna by polling 11,207 votes.
The NA-144 constituency had fallen vacant after an election tribunal unseated Ali Arif’s father, Chaudhry Muhammad Arif, for his forged educational certificate. Chaudhry Arif, also a former MPA, was elected from the constituency on a PML-N ticket in the May 2013 polls. Interestingly, PTI MPA Masood Shafqat and Jamaat-i-Islami were supporting Ali Arif in Sunday’s by-polls.
Riazul Haq was popular in both urban and rural Okara for his philanthropic activities. Sohna, who had served as a provincial minister in the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was popular in the central areas of Okara city.
A PPP candidate, Chaudhry Sajjadul Hassan, a former independent MNA from the constituency, could get around 4,300 votes even though the constituency was earlier regarded as a stronghold of the PPP before the 2013 general elections.
In all, 15 candidates had submitted nomination papers for the by-elections. However, six of them later withdrew their nominations leaving nine candidates in the run.
On Sunday, balloting was held in a largely peaceful manner. There were 316,389 registered voters in the constituency. Of the 210 polling stations set up in the constituency, 25 had been declared sensitive. Over 4,000 security personnel were deployed to ensure trouble-free polling.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2015.