LAHORE: Electioneering in PP-206, Khanewal is picking up as leaders of all major parties – the PML-N, the PPP and the PTI – are making a beeline to the constituency in support of their respective candidates.

Polling for the by-poll on the Punjab Assembly’s seat, which fell vacant after the death of disgruntled PML-N MPA Nishat Ahmed Khan Daha, is due on Dec 16.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has set up 185 polling stations for around 230,698 voters of the constituency where 13 candidates were competing, declaring 23 polling stations ‘highly sensitive’ and 84 other ‘sensitive’.

The ECP has requisitioned the services of the Rangers for maintaining law and order during the polling in the constituency to depute the personnel outside the polling stations.

The PML-N has fielded Rana Muhammad Saleem, who was a PTI candidate in the 2018 general election for the seat and the PTI has pitched Munaza Perveen, the widow of late Daha against him. Daha had defeated PTI’s Rana Saleem by a margin of 3,546 votes in 2018.

The PPP has retained its 2018 candidate, Wasiq Sirjees Haider, while the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has nominated Muhammad Akmal.

Parliamentarians of all the four parties are joining the election campaigns of their respective candidates, notwithstanding the ECP’s code of conduct that bars public office-holders from taking part in electioneering.

The election authority has issued show-cause notices to ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, PTI ministers Ahmed Yar Hiraj, Hamid Yar Hiraj and Hussain Jahania Gardezi, PML-N’s Awais Leghari, Ataullah Tarar and others for violation of the code of conduct.

The constituency, mostly comprising Khanewal’s urban areas, is considered a stronghold of the opposition PML-N as out of 44 wards of the municipality, it had won in 29, while 15 were bagged by the PTI in the last local body polls.

On the other hand, the PTI supporters hoped this time the party would clinch the seat as late Daha had executed a number of development works in the constituency during his lifetime, while his widow would also bag sympathy votes. The PTI is also selling the Health Card Scheme and Ehsas programme to woo the voters.

As per a local observer, Ashraf Gadhi, the rising inflation is a big disadvantage for the PTI campaigners as wherever they go people ask about the ever-increasing prices of essentials.

He believes that those who had voted for late Daha in the last election may change their opinion after his death, predicting a close contest in the by-poll.

Rana Bilal, a lawyer, says the TLP could have been a challenge for the PML-N, but the Sialkot lynching incident has turned the public opinion against the party and many voters are seeing it as a “violent organisation”. However, despite this negative image, its nominee is likely to bag around 10,000 votes, he says.

Sardar Mustansar, a supporter of the PML-N, says that in view of the low turnover in the Lahore NA-133 by-poll, the party has assigned wards to various local leaders for bringing voters to polling station on the polling day to use their right to franchise.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2021

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