A vociferous election campaign for NA-122 (Lahore V) marked by verbal duels between leaders of the ruling party and a leading opposition group ended on the night between Friday and Saturday, but the two sides took to social media to lure in voters hours before polling.
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate, had won the seat by defeating Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan in the 2013 parliamentary election. Imran, however, challenged Sadiq’s election, alleging electoral fraud in the constituency. After a marathon legal battle, Imran won the case when an election tribunal unseated Sadiq after finding irregularities in his election. On Sunday, Sadiq, who is hoping to regain the office of speaker National Assembly, will face Aleem Khan of PTI in a hotly contested by-election.
Read: NA-122 By Polls: Candidate withdraws in favour of Ayaz
There are some 347,762 registered voters in the constituency. And Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) says balloting will start at 8 am and continue uninterrupted till
5 pm. As many as 5,000 policemen have been deployed at different polling stations to ensure trouble-free polling. They will be assisted by 2,915 army troops.
According to the ECP schedule, canvassing ended 24 hours before the elections – and no contesting party was allowed to stage rallies or public meetings. Practically, the campaign ended, but leaders from the two parties held press conferences and used social media to muster last-minute support.
Read: PML-N violating election laws in NA-122 by-poll campaign, PTI writes to ECP
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled all the way to Lahore and briefed journalists about the performance of his government. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, who belongs to the PTI, also travelled to Islamabad to showcase his party’s achievements.
Talking to journalists at the Punjab Governors House, the premier indirectly criticised the PTI, particularly for opposing the multibillion-rupee Kissan package.
“Why are some politicians opposing the Kissan Package and snatching from peasants the right to improve their lives? I envisioned a metro bus project for Peshawar where I heard a Naya Pakistan was being formed. They [the PTI] are opposing the metro bus while we are bringing metro train,” he said.
Prime minister also visited different areas of Lahore and reviewed development projects. PTI Chairman Imran Khan, on the other hand, used the microblogging website Twitter to appeal to his supporters to vote for Aleem Khan. “My message for all NA-122 voters: Wherever you live, I urge you to come to NA-122 and cast your vote. Check your vote by texting your CNIC to 8300,” he tweeted.
Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique also held a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Saturday. “People of Lahore will vote for the PML-N as they know Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is leading the country on the road to progress,” he said.
Read: NA-122 by-election: Imran warns ruling party against rigging
He said Imran had termed the National Assembly fake and resigned and now he was asking for votes to go to the same assembly he had resigned from. “People of Pakistan gave 34 seats to the PTI but Imran insulted people’s mandate and quit the assembly to stage sit-ins,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.