News Analysis |
Preparations are already underway in Lahore’s NA-120 constituency which was recently vacated by the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Political parties have started preparing for the upcoming political battle by holding public meetings with their workers. Following the historic Supreme Court verdict on the Panamagate case disqualifying Nawaz, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) de-notified him as Member National Assembly (MNA) leaving the seat from NA-120 unoccupied.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), second largest party in Punjab which is swiftly gaining political capital after the departure of Nawaz, has decided to back Dr. Yasmin Rashid in the by-election
Sunday saw local leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), MPAs Bilal Yasin and Majid Zahoor, formally launching the campaign for the by-election of NA-120 after holding several public meetings in the constituency.
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Nawaz Sharif has tapped his younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to become the PM after getting elected as MNA from the constituency in question, a decision which was backed by the party.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), second largest party in Punjab which is swiftly gaining political capital after the departure of Nawaz, has decided to back Dr. Yasmin Rashid in the by-election of NA-120. She previously contested in the general elections from the same constituency in 2013 against Nawaz Sharif and managed to grab more than 52,000 votes, the highest number of votes ever cast against Nawaz Sharif, who considers Lahore his stronghold.
“Yes, we officially have started holding public meetings again for the by-election of NA-120 and a public meeting was organized on Saturday at Karim Park area to celebrate the Panama Verdict,” Dr. Yasmin said while speaking to reporters. “The margin of my votes in 2013, as compared to Nawaz Sharif’s, was 39,345, where he got 91,666 votes and I grabbed 52,321.
While it is a given that PML-N will take advantage of all government machinery available to them, the massive surge in popularity of PTI after the SC verdict could prove to be a game changer.
“The vote margin between PTI and PML-N has now been decreased to 14,000 votes only, as PTI got 38,000 votes and PML-N grabbed 52,000 from all the union councils (UCs) of NA-120 during the local bodies elections held recently,” Yasmin said emphatically. PTI also managed to elect 12 councilors from 22 UCs that fall within the NA-120 and PTI candidates were runner up in 17 UCs, contesting on the seats of chairman, she added. “I contested against Nawaz Sharif in 2013 and now I am also ready to fight Shehbaz Sharif,” she said.
Feedback from local residents indicates that some are not satisfied with the governance in the ex-PM’s very own constituency. Roads and the sewerage system are reportedly debilitated due to lax maintenance and have become a major source of annoyance for residents.
Most analysts are in consensus over Shehbaz Sharif’s strong chances to win the seat however, PML-N’s strength in the area does not seem to perturb PTI which does not seem to be complacent and has started maximizing its efforts to challenge the Sharif’s on their home turf.
While it is a given that PML-N will take advantage of all government machinery available to them, the massive surge in popularity of PTI after the SC verdict could prove to be a game changer if they are able to successfully capitalize on it.
Shehbaz Sharif has always been considered an inferior campaigner to his brother Nawaz, who has a warm personality that resonates with Lahoris, Shahbaz, on the other hand, is perceived as having a sterner disposition.
The stage is set at Lahore’s NA-120 for what could turn out to be yet another interesting political confrontation between rivals PTI and PML-N.