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ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has observed that a number of violations of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct have already been committed for the NA-120 Lahore-III by-election to be held on Sept 17.

According to a statement issued on Friday, the constituency witnessed a competitive campaigning by all major parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and independent candidates.

Fafen reported that the PML-N primarily relied on their elected local and provincial government representatives for campaigning.

Dr Yasmin Rashid of the PTI has been conducting door-to-door campaign and holding corner meetings in various union councils of the NA-120 constituency. An independent candidate supported by the Milli Muslim League, it was learnt, was investing heavily in his campaign.

Fafen observers claimed that there were sporadic instances of violence — mostly brawls and minor clashes between the PML-N and PTI workers. Almost all the candidates from the opposition parties interviewed by the election network raised concerns about the PML-N candidate with various charges, including the alleged use of state resources.

The PPP candidate accused the District Election Commissioner (DEC) of favouring the PML-N. He raised concerns regarding security in the constituency, claiming that police did not register a First Inform­ation Report (FIR) of incidents of intimidation of his party’s workers by the PML-N. PTI’s campaign in-charge Andleeb Abbass alleged that the PML-N initiated development schemes after the announcement of the election programme for NA-120.

Others observed violations of the code of conduct, including the use of oversized campaign banners and hoardings by the PML-N, PTI, PPP, Jamaat-i-Islami and Yaqoob Sheikh, an independent candidate. The workers of these parties, it was learnt, were seen distributing food among voters.

The NA-120 seat fell vacant after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister by the Supreme Court. Mr Sharif had won this seat in the 2013 general elections, securing 59.8 per cent of the votes. The PML-N has maintained its stronghold in the constituency during the last three general elections. PTI candidate Dr Rashid has made inroads into the constituency during the last general elections, securing 34.1pc of the votes.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2017