LAHORE: Azhar Ali of Mohni Road on Sunday was a little surprised over Jamaatud Dawa-backed candidate’s polling camp matching the PML-N and PTI’s in terms of size and presence of activists.
“I have been actively participating in election activities for the last two decades or so from the platform of PML-N. During the period, PML-N, PPP, Jamaat-i-Islami and recently PTI set up camps in almost all polling stations of a constituency. But this time, not just me, but almost everyone saw a strong presence of JuD men on election day which is a little surprising for us,” said Ali, who was all praise for his leadership for giving him a job 18 years ago.
JuD-backed Sheikh Yaqoob contested as an independent candidate. He wanted to contest from the platform of Milli Muslim League – the new political face of JuD - launched just before the NA-120 by-poll, but the Election Commission of Pakistan has not registered it as a political party yet.
A visit to the constituency by Dawn showed that several polling stations of mainstream parties such as PPP and JI wore a deserted look, but the JuD camps were buzzing - a sight never witnessed in past elections. However, voters were hardly seen heading to its camps.
Workers of the JuD and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation appeared enthusiastic, hoping their candidate would put up an impressive show laying a strong foundation for Hafiz Saeed’s party for the 2018 general elections.
“We are here to stay in the political field. The response we got during the campaign for Mr Yaqoob is promising. People want a party that talks about making Pakistan strong against its enemies and at the same time help them in solving their basic livelihood problems,” Abdul Wajid of JuD told Dawn on Mohni Road.
Though he admitted that most of their vote bank in 2013 and before had supported the PML-N candidates across the country, but now since they had launched their own political party, they would field candidates in most constituencies.
A young JuD activist Zaid bin Abbas at the Mozang polling camp took credit for distributing free food in the area which he said other parties usually never did in a constituency.
“We are known for our social work, especially in Balochistan. We also provided free medical facility through our mobile dispensaries in NA-120 giving a choice to the people that they can look up to someone else other than the conventional political parties,” Abbas said.
Azhar Ali said he and other locals listened to the “ideology” of JuD activists patiently but did not promise to give vote to its candidate.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2017