LAHORE: In a tension-filled close contest, PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq retained his NA-122 Lahore seat by defeating PTI’s Abdul Aleem Khan in the by-election held here on Sunday amid extraordinary security as well as media hype.
According to unofficial results, Mr Sadiq secured 76,204 votes and his rival Aleem Khan 72,043.
It’s the fourth consecutive win for the former National Assembly speaker since 2002, twice against PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
The by-election resulted in ritual routing of the former ruling party, the PPP. It was difficult to spot any election camp of PPP’s candidate, Barrister Amer Hasan, or its flags and workers in the constituency. Because of the absence of PPP’s central leadership from the electioneering it could not become a three-way contest.
Interestingly, in the by-election for the Punjab Assembly’s PP-147 seat, which falls within NA-122, PML-N candidate Mohsin Lateef was defeated by PTI’s Shoaib Siddiqui, though by a thin margin, to the worst fears of the chief minister’s son Hamza Shahbaz who had opposed granting Mr Lateef party ticket because of his ‘unpopularity’ among party activists.
Former NA speaker secures 76,204 votes and PTI’s Aleem Khan 72,043
According to unofficial results, Shoaib Siddiqui bagged 31,993 votes and Mohsin Lateef 28,641.
Barring a couple of minor clashes, the polling throughout the day remained peaceful as no major complaint was lodged by any party, thanks to elaborate arrangements made by the election authorities.
Otherwise a dull exercise with low turnout, it became a nerve-breaking electoral contest after both the sides openly used their resources without caring for the code of ethics. Both the parties ran expensive publicity campaigns through print and electronic media, banners and election offices and held corner meetings and large public rallies to impress voters.
Imran Khan gave fulltime while his wife Reham and party’s bigwigs, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen, partially canvassed for the PTI candidate. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, along with members of his cabinet, also visited the city to explain to Lahorites through media what the PTI was doing for the people in KP.
The PML-N not only executed various development schemes in the constituency but also involved its parliamentarians from outside Lahore and even Punjab, like Talal Chaudhry and Abid Sher Ali from Faisalabad and Marvi Memon from Sindh.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also made his entry by holding a large and detailed news conference at the Governor’s House, located in the middle of the constituency, criticising the political opponents and recounting achievements of his government.
The PML-N’s polling day strategy also worked well. It mobilised its workers led by MNAs and MPAs from across the city to make the party’s impressive presence in the constituency.
The N-League also set up separate election cells for each union council where computerised voter number slips were prepared and delivered at voters’ doorsteps a day before the polling, while the PTI activists were seen preparing the slips at camps outside the polling stations and getting confused about numbering in the voters’ list.
The activities helped increase the turnout as by 2pm (three hours before the end of polling) about 30 per cent of voters had used their right to franchise.
Activists of both parties exchanged hot words and even blows when their leaders passed by polling camps of the other in Survey Colony in Garhi Shahu, Basti Syden Shah on the Upper Mall and Pir Ghazi Road in Ichhra.
Unlike in the past, police were fully prepared for quick response, reaching a place within five minutes of receiving any complaint.
In view of a report by a secret agency identifying 12 places where clashes were feared, the health authorities declared an emergency in three major public hospitals while Rescue 1122 was asked to reduce its response time from normal seven minutes to 2-3 minutes.
Luckily, no untoward incident took place. A youth carrying a pistol was arrested from outside a polling station in Rehmanpura.
Law-enforcement agencies made elaborate security and administrative arrangements and no-one in polling station areas was allowed to violate the election code of ethics. Voters were not allowed to carry mobile phones inside polling stations. Voters were frisked and their identity cards checked by Rangers personnel before they were allowed to enter polling stations. Media personnel covering the elections were escorted and facilitated by Rangers.
A political analyst, who cast his vote in the constituency, told Dawn that it was the best arranged election activity so far as unlike in the past voters faced no problem this time.
Returning Officer Ahmed Nawaz said they had received 25 complaints, but all of them were of minor nature, mostly related to voter lists, and nothing about rigging.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2015