LAHORE - While the PPP and the PTI have not much at stake in context of August 22 by–elections, the PML-N is facing the tough challenge of retaining the seats vacated by its candidates after their election on more than one seats in May 11 elections.
Out of total five National Assembly and 14 Provincial Assembly seats in Punjab, the PPP and the PTI have got one seat each to defend during the upcoming by-polls. The former is struggling to retain a Punjab Assembly seat (PP-292-Rahim Yar Khan) vacated by Makhdoom Syed Mustafa Mahmood, whereas, the latter has to defend a National Assembly seat (NA-71-Mianwali) vacated by party chief Imran Khan.
The rest of the seats belong to the PML-N, and it is yet to be seen how many of these are retained by it. Analysts believe that the PTI may turn the tables on the PML-N in some of the constituencies if it succeeds to bring maximum number of voters to the polling stations on the polling day.
In NA-71 (Mianwali), a tough contest is likely between Malik Waheed of PTI and Obaidullah Shadikhail of PML-N. Imran had won this seat in May 11 general elections but the margin of victory was narrow. The PTI candidate would have to work hard in this constituency to defeat his rival who is a seasoned politician and a former member of National Assembly.
Previously, Ayela Malik was PTI’s candidate from this constituency but she was disqualified for having a fake degree.
Another interesting contest is going to be witnessed in Lahore (NA-129) on a seat vacated by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif. The PML-N has awarded ticket to Shazia Mubashir after her husband Rana Mubashir was disqualified by the Lahore High Court.
She is facing Mansha Sindhu of PTI who lost the last election to Shahbaz Sharif in this constituency. The PPP has fielded Ashraf Bhatti but he is less likely to pose any challenge to the main contestants.
A former MNA Shafqat Hayat Khan Baloch has been entrusted the task of defending a National Assembly seat from Sargodha (NA-68) vacated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He will face Nazeer Sobi of PTI who had contested the last election as an independent candidate but lost to the PML-N chief. Here the margin of victory was wide and the PML-N is most likely to retain this seat.
The PML-N also stands greater chance of victory in NA-83 (Faisalabad) where the general elections were postponed due to the death of a candidate. The PML-N candidate Mian Abdul Mannan is stated to be in a commanding position in this constituency. In NA-171 (Muzaffargarh), the PML-N is supporting Javed Dasti, brother of Jamshed Dasti who won the last election from this constituency as an independent candidate and later joined N-League.
He is facing Ghulam Rabbani Khar, father of former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The PML-N is likely to retain this seat.
In PP-161 (Lahore), also vacated by Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N has fielded Ch Gulzar Gujjar. PTI ‘s Khalid Mahmood Gujjar and PPP’s Rana Akhtar are also in the run from PP-161, a constituency of NA-129.
In PP-150, vacated by Mehr Ishtiaq of the PML-N, the latter has fielded former MNA Mian Marghoob Ahmad. He will face Wajid Azeem of PTI and Asif Nagra of PPP. Another potential candidate of PML-N Khwaja Salman Rafiq has been finalised for PP-142 which was vacated by Hamza Shahbaz Sharif.
Some likely-to-be hotly contested Provincial Assembly seats in Punjab include PP-6 (Rawalpindi), vacated by Ch Nisar Ali Khan, PP-51 (Faisalabad), vacated by former PA Speaker Ch Afzal Sahi, PP-118 (Mandi Bahauddin), vacated by Ch Moonis Elahi of PML-Q, PP-123 ( Sialkot), vacated by Khawaja Muhammad Asif, PP-193 (Okara) vacated by Mian Moeen Wattoo of PML-N, PP-210 (Lodhran), vacated by independent candidate Muhammad Siddiq Khan, PP-217 (D G Khan), vacated by Hassamuddin Khosa, PP-243 (D G Khan), vacated by Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa, PP-247 (Rajanpur), vacated by Mian Shahbaz Sharif, PP-254 (Muzaffargarh), vacated by Raees Muhammad Mahmood Ahmad and PP-289 (Rahim Yar Khan), vacated by independent candidate Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar).