Premier set to meet notables; Maryam dispatches team to prepare the groundwork
As the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) gear up to face off in the NA-122 by-polls scheduled for October 11, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and three prominent members of his family have unanimously decided to personally oversee their party’s election campaign, The Express Tribune has learnt.
According to details shared by members of PML-N’s senior leadership, the premier will host a meeting with notables from the constituency soon after returning from New York.
The move comes after PTI chief Imran Khan started personally campaigning for his candidate Aleem Khan. PTI has also announced a massive rally in Lahore for October 9.
With NA-122 considered as PML-N’s political heart, Nawaz’s daughter Mayram has dispatched her team consisting of women to the constituency to prepare ground for her visit ahead of polling day and to manage a door-to-door campaign.
On the other hand, PML-N’s MNA Hamza Shahbaz has started politicking in the constituency and addressing public gatherings as a bar from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was limited to the prime minister, chief minister and cabinet members.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, cognizant of the ECP ban, has been closely observing the election campaign in Lahore, sources say. They add that he has already held meetings with notables from the constituency – a large one before Eidul Azha and a second smaller ‘tea party’ after Eid.
NA-122 had fallen vacant after former NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq was de-seated by an election tribunal. Sadiq is re-contesting the seat and has been accompanied by Hamza and Pervez Malik along with other PML-N lawmakers in his campaigns.
The PML-N fears that a PTI win would weaken its chances in the upcoming local body elections. It may also allow Imran to start a broader campaign against the PML-N based on his oft-repeated allegation of rigging in the May 2013 elections.
Ayaz Sadiq, Aleem Khan lock horns
Sadiq and Khan have stepped up their respective campaigns in NA-122, with some surveys showing the PML-N candidate in the lead.
Being a local resident of NA-122, Sadiq is banking on his popularity in the area which has already seen him get elected thrice since 2002. Further, charity projects by his family in the densely populated neighbourhood of Garhi Shahu have helped build strong ties with local residents.
In localities such as Ichra, the PML-N has worked hard to win the public’s favour. Key among this has been reconciling differences with former MPA Mian Numan, a prominent MPA from the area who had been ignored in the 2013 general elections.
On the other hand, PTI’s Khan is at a disadvantage since he is not a native of NA-122. But he has invested himself into the campaign. Further, he will be banking on support from MPA Mian Aslam in Samanabad, former PML-Q MNA Mian Munir from Shama Cinema and Shoaib Siddqui in Dharampura.
To further boost their chances, both the PML-N and the PTI are looking to form alliances with small local political and religious parties in the constituency.
The PML-N has managed to gain the support of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Noorani and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F). It is currently trying to woo the Jamat-e-Islami.
The PTI has managed to win the backing of Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) in the district and are hopeful of winning over the JI as well.
Even though NA-122 is essentially a two-horse race, the Pakistan Peoples Party has set up camp at Ichra. However, only Senator Aitzaz Ahsan has so far lent his support.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2015.