LAHORE: The stage is set for an exciting by-election scheduled to be held in 11 constituencies — eight of National Assembly and three of Punjab Assembly — on Sunday.
It would be unprecedented in the country’s political history that one candidate, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, will be running for as many as seven seats out of eight up for grabs.
The by-polls will be conducted in three provinces — Punjab, where three seats of National and three of the provincial assembly are vacant; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it will be held for three NA seats, and Sindh, where candidates will compete for two NA seats.
A total of 101 candidates from different political parties and independents are taking part in the vote: 52 in Punjab, 33 in Sindh and 16 in KP. Around 4.472 million voters are registered in these constituencies.
Polls seen as litmus test for Imran’s popularity as he vies for seven seats
In Punjab, a major contest is expected between the nominees of PML-N, which is ruling in the Centre, and PTI, which is in power in the province.
For Multan NA-157, Meharbano Qureshi, daughter of Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is the PTI’s nominee. PPP’s Ali Musa Gilani is facing her.
In NA-108, Faisalabad-VIII, Abid Sher Ali and in NA-118 Shezra Mansab Ali of PML-N are contesting against Imran Khan.
The ECP says a sufficient number of police and Rangers personnel will be deployed for maintaining law and order on the polling day. The returning officers will hand over election material to the presiding officers a day before the polling.
In Punjab, 1,434 polling stations are being established, 979 in KP and 340 in Karachi. The election campaign concluded on Friday midnight.
Imran Khan has been vigorously running the campaign of his party, while senior PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, who had led all previous by-election campaigns, is in London to see her father Nawaz Sharif.
In Punjab, the PTI had won 15 out of the 20 provincial assembly seats in the last by-polls held in July against the expectations of all analysts.
In Karachi, arrangements were finalised for the by-election on two NA seats in Malir and Korangi districts where all contesting parties, except PTI, failed to carry out impressive electioneering.
For Karachi, Sunday’s by-polls will be significant as it’s going to happen only a week before the local government elections that are scheduled to be held in the city on Oct 23. The winning party will get a boost ahead of the crucial voting for Karachi’s local government.
With 22 aspirants running for NA-239, the key contest is likely to be witnessed among Imran Khan, Nayyar Raza of the MQM-P and Muhammad Yasin of TLP.
The other constituency with a much larger area but fewer voters would witness the main clash between the PTI chief and the PPP’s Abdul Hakeem Baloch.
A spokesman for the Sindh police said more than 6,000 personnel backed by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers would be looking after security arrangements on the election day. The ECP, he said, has also put troops of the Pakistan Army on standby as a quick response force to maintain law and order on the day of voting.
Out of the 979 polling stations in KP, 745 have been declared highly sensitive and 234 sensitive.
According to the ECP, 1.45 million people — 808,038 men and 642,651 women — are eligible to cast vote in the KP by-polls.
According to the final list, four candidates each are contesting for NA-22 Mardan and NA-24 Charsadda and eight for NA-31 Peshawar.
The NA-22 candidates are Imran Khan, Mohammad Qasim of JUI-F, Abdul Waseh of JI and independent candidate Mohammad Sarwar.
Those running for NA-24 are Imran Khan, provincial chief of ANP Aimal Wali Khan, JI’s Mujeebur Rehman and independent candidate Sparlay Mohmand.
The NA-31 candidates are former prime minister Imran Khan, ANP leader Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Mohammad Aslam of JI, Saeedullah Khan of the Rah-i-Haq Party, Abdul Qadir of the Tehreek-i-Jawanan Pakistan, former MNA Shaukat Ali, who vacated this seat and is a covering candidate for Imran Khan, and independent candidates Emran Khan and Shaukat Ali.
The constituencies where by-polls will be held are: NA-22 Mardan-III, NA-24 Charsadda-II, NA-31 Peshawar-V, NA-108 Faisalabad-VIII, NA-118 Nankana Sahib-II, NA-157 Multan-IV, NA-237 Malir-II, NA-239 Korangi Karachi-I, PP-241 Bahawalnagar-V; PP-209 Khanewal-VII, and PP-139 Sheikhupura-V.
Amjad Mahmood in Lahore, Imran Ayub in Karachi and Mohammad Ashfaq in Peshawar contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2022