Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Muhammad Iqbal Shah is all set to win the by-elections in NA-154 Lodhran constituency as he leads his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) rival by 27,519 votes, according to unconfirmed and unofficial results, DawnNews reported.
According to unofficial results from all 227 polling stations, PML-N's Shah secured 113,452 votes as compared to the runner-up, PTI candidate Ali Khan Tareen, who bagged 85,933 votes.
The independent candidate backed by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan is third on the list with 9,981 votes, while PPP candidate has managed to secure only 3,129 votes so far.
With defeat looming, PTI chief Imran Khan took to Twitter to console his party workers.
Voting had started early Monday morning for the seat that had become vacant following the disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Jahangir Tareen by the Supreme Court last year.
Expecting an obvious victory, Maryam Nawaz said people have upheld the sanctity of the vote. She termed the victory of PML-N candidate a victory of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
PPP candidate Mirza Muhammad Ali Baig, PTI's Ali Khan Tareen and PML-N’s Muhammad Iqbal Shah contested the by-poll. Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan supported an independent candidate, Azhar Sandila. Six other candidates also took part in the polls, bringing the total number of candidates to 10.
A total of 388 polling stations and 1,043 polling booths were set up to cater to the 431,000-strong population of the region.
The polling remained peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from any polling station.
Army personnel were deployed at every polling station on the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) request.
Jahangir Tareen, while speaking to the media after casting his vote, stated that there was no possibility of rigging in the by-election today due to the presence of army personnel outside polling stations.
He said PTI would respond to ECP's notice of violating its code of conduct, adding that the institution did not take any notice when the PML-N legislators were running the campaign for their candidate.
Candidates fined by ECP
The ECP on Sunday sent out notices, fining PML-N's Muhammad Iqbal Shah Rs30,000 for violating the code of conduct and holding a corner meeting with his associates after the time for electioneering was up.
PTI's Ali Tareen was fined Rs40,000 for holding a political gathering in Lodhran, which was addressed by PTI chief Imran Khan, after the time for campaigning had passed. The ECP had already warned Khan and Tareen that addressing a rally in Lodhran would be a violation of the ECP code of conduct.
This is the third election being held for the seat in the past four years. In the 2013 general election, Jahangir Tareen was the runner-up from NA-154. Siddique Baloch had, as an independent candidate, defeated Jahangir by a margin of 10,000 votes — a victory that was contested by the latter in a petition with the election tribunal.
Jahangir had accused Siddique of possessing a fake degree and committing irregularities during the 2013 general election. In 2015, the Supreme Court had ordered a re-election, which was won by Jahangir by over 35,000 votes.
Lack of vigour
Monday's by-poll saw the return of former federal minister Mirza Nasir Baig to the PPP who fielded his son as the party candidate. He had earlier left the party before the 2015 by-polls and joined the PML-N.
Those interested in electoral science are curious to see if the PPP makes any difference in the constituency, which has been dominated by Siddique and Jahangir since 2008.
A lack of vigour in the election activity was observed in the area and attributed to the absence of Siddique, who has decided to opt out of the by-polls.
Jahangir fielded his son Ali Khan Tareen as PTI's candidate while Siddique's son Umair Khan Baloch had also submitted his nomination papers but later, during a PML-N meeting, Siddique expressed his unwillingness to take part in the election because of its high cost.
The party refused to sponsor electioneering for his son and decided that Shah, the former tehsil nazim of Dunyapur and the father of MPA Amir Iqbal, will be its candidate.
PML-N Lodhran president Tahir Amir Ghauri opposed the party choice and said the party had become hostage to electables at the cost of loyal workers.
While the PML-N was busy selecting the candidate, the Tareen family was working tirelessly to clinch the poll.
Local journalist Mirza Rajab Baig said the family had become the most powerful political group of the area because of the constant presence of Jahangir Tareen and his son in the constituency and their public welfare projects.