The campaigning finally started to pick up in the by-elections which will be held on 14 October on two national assembly seats NA-124 and NA-131 Lahore. Flex and banners can be seen on the roads, poles, and streets. The candidates started to open offices and organizing public meetings in the different areas of the constituencies.
Both PML-N and PTI has fielded the strongest possible candidates in both constituencies. Lahore is the stronghold of PML-N since the 1990s and it maintained its grip on the city. PML-N won 10 out of 14 national assembly seats of Lahore in the July 25 general elections.
By-election will be the first real test of popularity of both parties. A lot is on the stake in this by-election for both the parties. PML-N will defend its seat NA-124 vacated by Hamza Shahbaz while PTI will defend the NA-131 vacated by PM and PTI chief Imran Khan.
NA 124 Shahid Khaqan Abbasi vs. Dewan Mohiuddin
PML-N has fielded former prime minister and senior party leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the by-election in NA-124. PTI has fielded Dewan Mohiuddin MLA in this constituency. Dewan belongs to Kashmiri clan and elected as MLA several times from Lahore. Abbasi belongs to Murree and lost to PTI candidate Sadaqat Abbasi on July 25 general elections. So it will be the matter of honor and political prestige for PML-N and Sharif family to win this election.
This constituency considers as the safest seat of PML-N in Lahore. Hamza won this seat with a margin of nearly 70, 000 (seventy thousand) votes. He defeated Nauman of PTI with a huge margin. Qaiser of This constituency is the home constituency of the Sharif family. Both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif elected from this constituency.
Hamza Shahbaz is himself leading the campaign. PML-N will try everything to maintain a healthy lead over PTI. It seems that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is in the comfortable position
This constituency consists of walled city, Shad Bagh, Badami Bagh, Misri Shah, Farooq Gunj, Gawal Mandi and some other areas. All the main wholesale and retail markets of Lahore situated in this constituency. So traders play a key role in the final outcome of the election in this constituency.
The PTI workers are not happy over the nomination of Dewan as a candidate. They wanted to see a political activist of PTI as a candidate. But once again PTI leadership preferred a rich and influential candidate over loyal party workers. Dewan will rely on to get some votes from his Kashmiri clan. The majority of Kashmiri clan remained loyal to PML-N over the years.
NA- 131 Khawaja Saad Rafique vs. Humayun Akhter
PML-N retained its defeated candidate from this constituency Khawaja Saad Rafique. Saad lost to PTI chief Imran Khan with a very narrow margin of 686 votes. This difference even reduced to less than 600 votes when the rejected votes were recounted. Imran khan abandoned this seat and took oath on his native Mianwali seat.
Saad Rafique won this constituency in 2008 and 2013 general elections. He defeated PML-Q candidate Humayun Akhter with a huge margin. In 2013, he defeated Hamid Khan with the margin of nearly 40,000 votes.
PTI has fielded Humayun Akhter who joined PTI just a week before the general elections of July 25. He was in PML-N but parted way after PML-N refused to award him a ticket to contest elections. He is known to the spent huge amount of money in the elections. He is a strong candidate who won this constituency in 2002 with a narrow margin.
A very close contest is expected in this constituency. Humayun will try to take revenge for his 2008 defeat at the hands of Saad Rafique. In the general elections of July 25, 2018, Imran Khan got most of his votes from Defence and other posh areas while Saad Rafique got most votes from poor and lower-middle-class areas.
The turnout will be very important in the constituency. If the PTI succeeded to mobilize its voters from posh areas then we will see an interesting contest on this seat. It’s difficult to predict a winner at this stage even though Saad Rafique has a slight edge.
We are heading towards an interesting contest on 14 October in this closely contested constituency.
Khalid Bhatti ACE News Election Cell