SIALKOT/NOWSHERA: While poll-related violence claimed lives of two persons in Punjab, the victory of a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate from a stronghold of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa came as a big surprise for the ruling party as it failed to retain the provincial assembly seat it won in 2018.
Polling for by-elections on two National Assembly seats, in Daska (NA-75) and Kurram tribal district (NA-45), and as many provincial constituencies, in Gujranwala (PP-51) and Nowshera (PK-63), was held on Friday amid a supercharged environment with traditional rivals contesting against each other.
According to unofficial results received on Friday night, PML-N emerged victorious on three of the four constituencies.
In 2018 general elections, the PML-N had won the NA-75 and PP-51 seats in Punjab. The party managed to retain both the seats after a tough contest, according to unofficial results.
According to unofficial results, PML-N clinches two Punjab seats; two killed in Daska
But the PML-N’s victory from PK-63, Nowshera, came as a major setback for the PTI which has been ruling Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2013.
PML-N candidate Ikhtiar Wali, who also enjoyed support of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement, won the by-election by securing 21,112 votes against his rival candidate Mian Umer Kakakhel of the PTI, who got 17,023 votes.
The seat had fallen vacant after the death of PTI lawmaker Mian Jamshaiduddin, father of Umer Kakakhel. Former KP chief minister and incumbent Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had claimed that the PTI would comfortably win the election as he remained undefeated in his hometown.
The NA-75 constituency had fallen vacant after the demise of PML-N MNA Sahibazada Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah. The main contest in the constituency was between PML-N’s Nousheen Iftikhar and PTI’s Ali Asjad Malhi.
According to unofficial results of a total of 360 polling stations, Ms Iftikhar won the seat by bagging 158,791 votes against Mr Malhi’s 142,311 votes.
PML-N’s Talaat Shaukat Cheema returned successful in the PP-51 by-election. According to unofficial results of total 162 polling stations, she bagged 53,903 votes against PTI’s Yousaf Araen, who got 48,484 votes.
The seat had fallen vacant due to the death of PML-N lawmaker Shaukat Manzoor Cheema.
The counting of votes was still underway in the NA-45 constituency, where a close contest was being witnessed between Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) candidate Malik Jamil Khan, PTI’s Fakhar Zaman and independent candidate Baba Karam.
Earlier, although no major incident was reported from other constituencies, it was Daska’s NA-75 that came under the spotlight throughout the day due to intermittent violence, firing and clashes between activists and police.
Police said polling was being held peacefully until about 3pm when some suspects started firing at a polling station in the Government Boys High School, Goindkey-Bambaanwala.
As a result, polling agents Majid and Zeeshan of the PTI and PML-N were killed inside polling station and two PML-N supporters identified as Sajid and Fahad injured seriously.
Both the PML-N and PTI blamed each other for the murder of two political workers.
Sialkot District Police Officer Hassan Asad Alvi said Bambaanwala police were raiding places to arrest the suspects.
Meanwhile, a group of 10 motorcyclists resorted to firing into the air outside polling stations at the Government Boys High School, Daska, Government Jinnah Elementary School, Main Bazaar, Daska, and Government Boys High School, Daska Kalan.
The incident caused panic there due to which polling remained suspended for some time. Video clips of these firing incidents went viral online.
PML-N candidate Nousheen Iftikhar blamed the PTI people for the firing incidents and alleged that ballot boxes were also found unsealed at various polling stations before the start of polling.
She accused the Daska police of rigging and said they kept the gates of almost all polling stations closed due to which polling remained very slow.
On the other hand, Punjab chief minister’s special assistant Firdous Ashiq Awan blamed the PML-N for the firing and killing of two political workers.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2021