Syed Iqbal Shah
Syed Iqbal Shah

MULTAN: In a surprising turn of events, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won the NA-154 by-election in Lodhran with a sizeable margin on Monday, even though party chief Nawaz Sharif had been unable to participate in the election campaign as he was busy holding public gatherings across the country.

According to the unofficial count from 330 polling stations out of a total 338, at the time this report was filed, PML-N candidate Syed Iqbal Shah had obtained 116,590 votes, while Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Ali Khan Tareen had secured 91,230 votes.

The National Assembly seat (NA-154) seat fell vacant after the then secretary general of PTI Jahangir Tareen was disqualified for being “dishonest” by the Supreme Court in its verdict in December last year.

Celebrating the unexpected victory in the late hours of Monday, Maryam Nawaz tweeted: “This is simply majestic & sets the stage for 2018 elections. MNS message has resonated with the masses. Opponents misjudged the situation. Alhamdolillah million times. We bow our heads before The Almighty in gratitude.

“This is how The Divine responds to treachery & plotting.”

Commenting on the defeat in NA-154 by-poll, PTI chief Imran Khan said every setback was an opportunity to learn from mistakes.

In a bid to boost the morale of PTI workers, Mr Khan tweeted: “For all Insafians who are feeling dejected after NA154 result, every setback is an opportunity to analyse one’s mistakes, correct them & come back stronger. Successful people, institutions & nations learn from their failures. Those who get demoralised can never achieve their potential. In my decades of political struggle for Insaf I have never been demoralised but have come back stronger after confronting adversities. The 2018 election is ours inshaAllah.”

“It is a victory of the people who have rejected the politics of money and arrogance,” said the elderly PML-N candidate Syed Iqbal Shah, adding that the result had proved that people had rejected those who had attempted to buy out their conscience with money.

Ali Khan Tareen
Ali Khan Tareen

“I do not own planes or bungalows in Lahore... I am a down-to-earth person who loves to live among the people of our area. My only strength is the people with whom I will live and die,” he said.

As the results poured in, hundreds of PML-N supporters gathered at Mr Shah’s camp office in Lodhran and began celebrating.

Mr Shah was the candidate fielded by the ruling PML-N, while the PTI had nominated Ali Khan Tareen, son of PTI former general secretary Jahangir Tareen. The PPP had fielded Mirza Muhammad Ali Baig and the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah had backed Muhammad Azhar Sandela, an independent candidate. Mr Baig and Mr Sandela backed 3,170 and 10,181 votes, respectively. There were 10 candidates in the run for NA-154, with a total of 431,200 registered voters.

A contingent of over 2,000 cops had been deployed at the polling stations, alongside army men. Six of the polling stations had been declared sensitive and elections were held under the army’s supervision for the third time in this constituency since the 2013 general elections.

The PML-N’s candidate had cast his vote at a polling station in his hometown Makhdoom Aali, while the younger Mr Tareen had cast his vote at polling station 234.

Talking to reporters, PTI’s Mr Tareen said the decision to award him a ticket had been taken by the local party chapter, not his father or PTI chief Imran Khan.

PPP candidate Mr Baig said that his party had abided by the code of conduct, and demanded strict action against those who had openly flouted it.

PTI leader Jahangir Tareen arrived at his designated polling station on a helicopter. Talking to journalists, he said that his son would prove to be a more appropriate politician than he was. He promised to hold a victory rally in Lodhran city after his son won the election.

A 22-year old PML-N voter, Ali Musa of Mohallah Hafizabad (Lodhran), stopped at a polling station along with a wedding party to cast his vote before heading onwards to Shuajabad for his wedding.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2018

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