LODHRAN: Voting for the by-poll in National Assembly constituency NA-154, Lodhran, began at 8am Wednesday and continued throughout the day without interruptions till 5pm, with PML-N's Siddique Khan Baloch – who was elected in the 2013 general election from the same constituency but was disqualified by an election tribunal – and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Jahangir Tareen in the run as the most prominent candidates.
With polling now over, counting of votes has begun at all polling stations.
In the 2013 general election PTI's Jahangir Tareen was the runner up from NA-154.
But in a petition with the election tribunal, Tareen had accused Baloch of possessing a fake degree and committing irregularities during the 2013 general election; the tribunal eventually disqualified the PML-N lawmaker, barring him from contesting election for possessing a fake degree.
The Supreme Court, however, set aside one of the tribunal’s decisions and ordered re-election, allowing Baloch to contest again.
NA-154 was among the four controversial constituencies — the other three being NA-110 (Sialkot), NA-125 (Lahore) and NA-122 (Lahore) — where PTI had demanded for voters’ thumbprint verification before its street protest against alleged rigging in the 2013 general election.
Army personnel were deputed at all the 303 polling stations of Lodhran constituency to provide security during the by-election.
District Police Officer Asad Sarfraz Khan told Dawn newspaper that 3,000 policemen and 1,100 razakar were to perform duties at polling stations. He said 47 polling stations were deemed most sensitive.
The DPO said voters would not be allowed to carry mobile phones and cameras to the polling stations.
There are 419,182 registered voters – 228,870 male and 190,312 female in NA-154 constituency.
In the run up to the by-poll, PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday addressed a public meeting for Tareen in Lodhran and said that instead of accusing the leaders of his party of corruption the government should jail them.
"Why don’t you arrest them? I would like to ask the Sharifs that they should arrest them (PTI leaders) if they are involved in corruption," he said. Imran also criticised the government's handling of diesel prices, taxes, its agriculture policy and expenditure.
Hamza Shahbaz hit back at the PTI leader in a public meeting for Baloch, saying the PML-N government had initiated several power projects, while the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had gambled away the money meant for power projects. He also took the opportunity to remind the people of Lodhran that Imran earlier got a stay order from courts against Prime Minister Nawaz's farmers' package for Lodhran.