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LAHORE: Although MNA retired Capt Muhammad Safdar received at least two notices from the Election Commission of Pakistan for violation of code of conduct for running campaign for his mother-in-law Begum Kulsoom in NA-120, he had never been seen flanking his wife Maryam during over a month-long canvassing in the constituency.

Mr Safdar was also not invited to a series of meetings of the NA-120 party workers presided over by Maryam at the recently de-notified chief minister’s camp office in Model Town.

On Thursday too Maryam and Safdar held separate meetings of party workers’ at Awan-i-Iqbal and Chauburji, respectively. Safdar was even absent from the gathering of the PML-N Youth Wing, addressed by Maryam at Awan-i-Iqbal, of which he is the president.

During the by-poll campaign, senators Pervaiz Rashid and Asif Karmani, federal ministers Pervaiz Malik, Talal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz, Marrium Aurenzeb, provincial ministers Bilal Yasin, Khwaja Imran Nazir, Zaeem Qadri and some MPAs flanked Maryam, besides attending the meetings held in Model Town. On the contrary, no significant PML-N leader accompanied Mr Safdar during his month-long canvassing in NA-120.

Despite receiving two ECP notices, Safdar held a small public meeting in Chauburgi and sought votes for Begum Kulsoom. In his reply to the ECP notices Mr Safdar has taken a plea that “the code of conduct is against the Constitution’s Article 4 as no one can be restrained from doing anything which is not prohibited by law”.

PML-N MPA from NA-120 Majid Zahoor told Dawn it had been the party’s strategy to send different leaders separately to the constituency to reach out to the voters. “Mr Safdar and some other leaders have been asked to hold separate campaign in NA-120 so that effective canvassing could be ensured,” Mr Zahoor said.

The PML-N did not allow the media persons to enter the Awan-i-Iqbal for the coverage of the convention. “We are told by the leadership not to allow the media as the election commission has banned all political events in the constituency,” a PML-N office-bearer from NA-120 told Dawn. However, he could not explain whether the media coverage (of the event) was banned or it was a political event.

Speaking at the youth convention, Maryam took on PTI Chairman Imran Khan for what she called conspiring against Nawaz Sharif. When the PML-N workers raised slogans against Imran, she asked them: “Do not even name this man...his value is not more than a pawn.”

Predicting a comfortable win for her mother in the by-poll, Maryam said, “It appears that my mother will win easily. However, you should not take the opponent (PTI) easy and work hard till the polling day.”

The campaign is going to be closed on Friday midnight.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2017