LAHORE - The by-elections for five National Assembly and two Provincial Assembly seats in Punjab are scheduled to be held on Feb 25th, but the traditional enthusiasm is missing this time due to a number of factors.
The talk of early elections, most probably in October this year, has diminished the importance of by-polls, as in case of such an eventuality, the new legislators would be elected only for a period of six months or so.
Apart from this, the expected results of these elections are not going to affect the existing numerical strength of any of the political parties in the assemblies.
The real contest is likely only on two seats, while the results of remaining five is quite obvious even before the elections due to seats adjustment between the political parties and some other factors. The National Assembly constituencies where elections are going to be held include, NA-140 (Kasur), NA-148 (Multan-I), NA-149 Multan-II, NA-168 (Vehari) and NA-195 Rahimyar Khan. The two provincial constituencies are: PP-18 (Attock) and PP-44 (Mianwali).
In NA-148, PPP has fielded Ali Musa Gilani against Abdul Ghaffar Dogar of PML-N. Musa Gilani is the son of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, while Dogar is a former UC Nazim. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi had vacated this seat after he joined PTI.
Since the PML-Q and PTI have not fielded their candidates, only two candidates have been left in the field. PM’s son is all set to win this seat because PML-N candidate is not a serious contender.
In NA-149 a contest is likely between PPP’s Malik Liaquat Dogar and PML-N’s Tariq Rasheed, as the latter has more chances of getting elected due to a number of reasons. Rasheed is ex-Mayor of Multan and brother of Sheikh Tahir Rashid, an ex-MNA of PML-N who later joined PML-Q and of late he has associated himself with PTI. Most of the past electoral battles in this constituency have been won by PML-N candidates.
The seat fell vacant due to the resignation of Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. Natasha Daultana of PPP stands greater chances of success in NA-168, a seat vacated by his late brother, Azeem Daultana who died in a road accident last month. She is likely to get the sympathy vote as well.
Akbar Ali Bhatti, a PML-N candidate, is most likely to be defeated. Late Azeem Daultana had won this seat in 2008 elections with big margin by defeating his aunt, Tehmina Daultana.
In NA-195 (Rahim Yar Khan), all political parties have left the field open for Makhdoom Murtaza Mehmood, the son of PML-F’s Punjab President Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood. He is contesting on PML-F ticket. The seat was vacated after Jahangir Tareen of PML-Q joined the PTI. Maulvi Tariq Chohan, an independent candidate, is also in the run, but he is less likely to create any problem for the young Makhdoom who is poised to win his maiden victory soon.
Of the five vacant National Assembly seats, NA-140 (Kasur- III) is the only constituency where tough contest is expected among three candidates.
The seat was vacated by Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali of PPP after he joined PTI. It would be an interesting contest to watch given a split vote bank in the constituency. The PPP has fielded Sardar Sarwar Dogar, brother of Sardar Muhammad Hussain Dogar, a sitting PPP MPA from Kasur. He would be facing two independent candidates, Malik Rashid and Dr Azeemuddin Lakhvi. Interestingly, Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali group, now led by Sardar Haroon, the younger brother of Sardar Assef, is also supporting the PPP candidate.
PML-N had earlier awarded ticket to Dr Azeemuddin Lakhvi but later decided not to give its electoral symbol to any of the candidates after Rashid also presented his case for the party ticket. The PPP candidate, a first-timer, may get the benefit of division of votes between the two independent candidates who would be banking on the PML-N vote bank.
Malik Rashid, who recently joined PML-N quitting PML-Q, had been elected to the Punjab Assembly twice from this constituency in the past. He is also having the support of his close relatives, Malik Ahmad Saeed and Malik Mahmood Ahmad, two sitting MPAs belonging to PML-Q. The PML-N is most likely to retain the provincial seat from Mianwali (PP-44) which fell vacant due to death of Aamir Hayat Khan Rokhri of the same party. Except some independent candidates, no other party has fielded candidate from this constituency. Late Aamir Rokhri’s son Adil Abdullah Khan Rokhri will contest the election on PML-N ticket. In PP-18 (Attock), three candidates - PML-N’s Malik Azam, PPP’s Malik Sameen Khan and Malik Amanat, an independent candidate - are in the run to capture the seat vacated by Khurrum Ali Khan who joined PTI.
Though tough contest is expected on this seat, but Malik Azam of PML-N is reportedly having edge over his rivals as many local groups have sided with him to provide the necessary support.