Last public show by PML-N, PTI candidates of NA-122 today
ISLAMABAD: Both the principal contestants, aspiring for the National Assembly seat, NA-122 Lahore, show their concluding public power on Friday a few hours before the official close of a fierce election campaign at midnight.
After the wrapping up of the public electioneering as mandated by the law, anybody holding even a corner meeting or staging a demonstration or taking out a procession will be liable to be punished. However, there will be no embargo on the door-to-door canvassing by the candidates or their activists.
The PML-N, which is poised to retain the seat, won by its nominee, Ayaz Sadiq, in 2013 general elections, holds its last campaign rally, which will be addressed by a host of its leaders, who have some kind of say in the constituency.
At the same time, the second major contestant, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), also organises its closing public meeting, the second in three days, where Imran Khan will be the main speaker.
While Ayaz Sadiq has been assisted in his campaign by a handful of second tier leaders of the PML-N with its central stalwarts like Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif staying away due to the ban on their participation, Imran Khan has taken the responsibility on his shoulders to lead Aleem Khan’s canvassing.
PTI Punjab Organizer Chaudhry Sarwar has also remained camped in the constituency while the party’s Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi could not show up throughout the campaign due to his preoccupation elsewhere, triggering speculation that he has deliberately distanced himself from the electoral activities. However, he is expected to appear at Friday’s party rally and will address it.
The PTI chairman, who had got Ayaz Sadiq unseated through the election tribunal, has allocated a lot of his time to garner support for his nominee in Lahore, which showed the extent of importance he has attached to the fight. Therefore, nobody else but Imran Khan will be responsible for the success or defeat of Aleem Khan.
However, all is not well in the Lahore chapter of the PTI as most of its prominent leaders are opposed to Aleem Khan since long because of a longstanding internal tussle that dates back to its intra-party elections in 2012. For this reason, Ijaz Chaudhry, Mian Mehmoodur Rashid, the leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly, and Yasmeen Rashid have not played any role in helping their party candidate. They appear on the scene only when Imran Khan happens to be present at some event. Despite his efforts, the PTI chairman has not been able to close ranks at this crucial point of time when a mere single victory can tremendously boost the morale of the party all over Pakistan after a massive setback that was caused by the report of the 3-member judicial commission that had dismissed all the rigging charges of the PTI.
Although Shahbaz Sharif has not been seen on the campaign scene due to the restriction imposed by the code of conduct of election, he has been directing the electioneering from behind the curtain. Hamza Shahbaz has been in the forefront, undertaking activities in the constituency on daily basis.
Every senior PML-N figure, pushed in the electoral arena, was brought in to garner support of different segments of voters. Whether it is Khawaja Saad Rafique, Marvi Memon Talal Chaudhry, Sheikh Waqas Akram or some other PML-N leader, all of them have some relevance in the electorate.
On the other hand, apart from the worthwhile support extended by Imran Khan and Reham Khan, Aleem Khan has run his campaign almost single-handed. As both Ayaz Sadiq and Aleem Khan admit, they don’t belong to NA-122. However, the PML-N candidate contested the last three general elections held in 2002, 2008 and 2013 from this constituency and consecutively won.
In the recent by-elections, the by-poll to NA-122 has experienced the most feverish campaign that exhibited that both the parties consider the fight extremely significant. They believe that the outcome will have a far-reaching political impact.
Those who have visited this purely urban area say that it is extravagantly splashed with posters and other publicity material. They feel that even the cost of this stuff is much more than the limit of Rs1.5 million, fixed by the law as the total election expenses, which is obviously unrealistic. However, their argument is that they have not personally shelled out the cost of this material but his supporters are footing the bill and they can’t stop them because they do of out of love for their favourite candidates.
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