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LAHORE: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has moved to Lahore to contest NA-124 by-poll as he hopes to clinch the seat without any difficulty and return to parliament to help Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif to give tough time to the Imran Khan-led government.

Mr Abbasi has also started holding meetings with the PML-N workers from the constituency of old Lahore vacated by Hamza Shahbaz.

Sources say Shahbaz Sharif has appointed Mr Hamza as a focal person to facilitate Mr Abbasi in his campaign, directing his son not to be complacent.

PTI’s Nauman Qaisar lost July 25 election to Hamza with a margin of about 70,000 votes.

The PTI leadership has not yet finalised any candidate to pitch against Mr Abbasi after Mr Qaiser declined to contest the by-poll.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Mr Abbasi said he would launch a full-fledged campaign in NA-124 later this month.

However, he said he was holding meetings with party workers of the constituency and with their cooperation he found no problem in reaching the voters.

Mr Abbasi believes even in case of low turnout in the by-poll he will maintain the victory margin.

“Although there are clear chances of our victory in NA-124, we will work hard and not take the contest easy,” he said.

The former premier is not considering NA-124 a make-shift arrangement for him to send him to the parliament.

“I am contesting for this seat on the wish of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif. I will not leave this constituency after getting elected. I will serve the people of NA-124 for five years, making sure the PTI government does not deprive this constituency of development,” said Mr Abbasi who remained prime minister for 10 months after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case in July last year.

To a question whether his election campaign would base on Nawaz’s narrative - give respect to the ballot, Mr Abbasi said: “Like that of July 25 elections, PML-N will stick to the slogan and highlight extensive development its government in Punjab carried out during the last 10 years.”

During the July 25 general election, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi lost two NA seats he contested -- his hometown Murree’s NA-57 and Islamabad’s NA-53 -- to Sadaqat Abbasi and PTI chairman Imran Khan, respectively. Since Mr Khan has vacated NA-53, the PML-N leadership avoided fielding him for the same seat considering it insecure for him.

About playing a role in the parliament after winning the by-poll, Mr Abbasi said: “I will strengthen the party and the opposition leader to give tough time to the government.”

The NA-124 is the only National Assembly constituency which is vacated by the PML-N among the eight NA constituencies in Punjab where the by-poll is being held on Oct 14.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2018