LAHORE: As the polling day for NA-120 by-polls is inching closer, electioneering by various candidates is gaining momentum.

There are 44 candidates for the seat fell vacant after the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama case. Polling will be held on Sept 17.

The constituency consists of Sanda, Shamnagar, Chauburji, Islamapura, Sanatnagar, Rajgarh, Rewaz Garden, Mozang, Lake Road, Lower Mall, New Anarkali, Lytton Road, Queens Road, Hall Road, Cooper Road, Mayo Hospital, Urdu Bazaar, Bilal Gunj, Ravi Colony, Kasurpura, Khokhar Town and Mominpura, where literacy rate as per official data is 75 per cent.

The ruling PML-N, which has fielded former first lady Kulsoom Nawaz for the contest, is more visible in the constituency as its election offices can be seen almost on each major road and in street in the area.

The area includes footprints of former prime minister Nawaz’s life – from schooling to power politics. It is the seat the Sharif family has never lost since 1985.

Maryam Nawaz, who has so far been looking after campaign for her mother from the Chief Minister’s Model Town Office, will join the campaign from Tuesday by opening an election office of the party in Mozang.

Maryam’s husband retired Capt Safdar is also running the campaign by addressing corner meetings every day.

Women activists of the party are visiting various localities carrying message of the leadership in the form of pamphlets. The candidate herself is in London where she is undergoing cancer treatment.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) Dr Yasmin Rashid is in the contest with full force. Mostly, the activists belonging to “ideology group” of the party are assisting her in the campaign. Interestingly, PTI chief Imran Khan, who has always been active in electioneering in various by-polls is not in the active campaign because of the Election Commission of Pakistan code of conduct. He will hold a rally in Lahore but outside this constituency to honour the code.

Dr Rashid’s focus is more on door- to-door contacts besides hoisting flexes and banners than addressing corner meetings or setting up election offices in various neighbourhoods.

On Rajgarh Road, there are eight election offices of the PML-N, two of the newly formed Milli Muslim League (MML), and one of the PPP, whereas there is no presence of the PTI and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI).

Election offices of the MML seem crowded where meals are served to workers and supporters. The party is also using projectors to screen speeches of leaders like Kashmir jihad-fame Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (who is presently under house arrest) and of Qari Yaqoob Sheikh, the MML candidate who is seen accompanying armed guards during the campaign.

PPP’s Faisal Mir with the help of Barrister Amer Hassan and party old guard Altaf Qureshi is actively running his show.

He is focusing on opening his election offices as just in Krishan Nagar area four such facilities can be seen. In the 2013 general election, not even a single office was spotted in the locality.

He says that his main contest would be against Hafiz Nauman, a covering candidate for Ms Sharif, for he believes that she would get disqualified on his petition regarding alleged flaws in her nomination papers.

Another unregistered party, Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah, is also in the run and has fielded Azhar Hussain. Its leader, Khadim Husain, has made the mosques as election offices and is also using the name of Mumtaz Qadri, an Elite Force guard who had shot dead former governor Salmaan Taseer for supporting a blasphemy accused, to win support of voters for Azhar.

JI’s Ziauddin Ansari is also in the contest and is mostly using Lytton Road office of the party for his electioneering.

The PPP-Workers has fielded former MPA Sajid Mir. Perhaps she is the only known candidate in the race who resides in the constituency.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2017