ISLAMABAD - Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervez Ashraf, in consultation with the ruling coalition partners, has banked on the PDM’s collective vote bank and cautiously selected 9 “comfortable constituencies” to accept the resignations of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNAs with a hope that the coalition would easily win the by-elections in these constituencies.

A close reading of the constituencies suggests that the speaker made the 2018 general election results basis of his decision. He considered two main things while selecting the constituencies; one that the margin of victory of the PTI members in 2018 general election in these constituencies was thin as compared to the other ones and that the PDM vote bank in these constituencies collectively surpasses what the PTI members individually bagged in 2018 elections. So, the ruling alliance is banking on the collective vote bank of the PDM parties in these constituencies to win the by-polls.

As per the 2018 general election results, in NA-22 (Mardan-III), Ali Muhammad of the PTI got 58,652 votes while Maulana Qasim Jan of the MMA bagged 56,587 votes. The difference of votes was just over 2000 votes. On the other hand, Jamshid Khan of the PML-N got 36,804 votes, ANP’s Malik Aman Khan 27,303 votes and PPP’s Shoaib Alam Khan secured 13,336 votes from the constituency. The margin of victory in the constituency was low and now the ruling alliance has selected this constituency with a hope that they would be able to help cast the collective votes of the PDM parties in favour of their joint candidate.

Similarly, in NA-24 (Charsadda-II), Fazal Muhammad Khan of the PTI had defeated ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan. Fazal bagged 83,596 votes while Asfandyar Wali Khan could secure only 59,809 votes. The encouraging thing for the ruling alliance is that Maulana Muhammad Gohar of the MMA had bagged 38,330 votes and PPP’s Aftab Alam got 10,464 votes.

In NA-31 (Peshawar-V), Shaukat Ali secured 87,975 votes to defeat ANP’s Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour who could bag 42,526 votes only. However, the PDM component parties’ candidates including Muhammad Siddiq Ur Rehman of the MMA got 11,669 votes while PPP’s Muhammad Irfanullah got 75,06 votes.

In NA-45 (Kurram-I), Fakhar Zaman Khan of the PTI had defeated JUI-F’s Jamil Khan Chamkani in the 2021 by-polls with a difference of just few hundred votes. Zaman got 16,911 votes while Chamkani got 15,761 votes. The seat had fallen vacant after the demise of the JUI-F parliamentarians Munir khan Orakzai.

In NA-108 (Faisalabad-VIII), Farrukh Habib of the PTI got 112,182 votes to defeat PML-N’s Abid Sher Ali who bagged 110,907 votes. PPP’s Malik Asghar Ali Qaisar also got 4,905 votes.

In NA-118 (Nankana Sahib-II), Ijaz Ahmed Shah got 63,918 votes to defeat PML-N’s Shezra Mansab Ali. Shezra got 61,395 votes. PPP’s Shahjahan Ahmad Bhatti also got 18,739 votes in the election.

In NA-237 (Malir-II), Jamil Ahmad Khan defeated Abdul Hakim Baloch of the PPP by a razor thin majority. Khan got 33,522 votes while Baloch got 32,054 votes.

In NA-239 Korangi (Karachi-I), Muhammad Akram of the PTI got 69,161 votes to defeat MQM-P’s Sohail Mansoor who got 68,811 votes. On the other hand, PML-N’s Muhammad Ehsan got 19,617 votes and MMA’s Muhammad Haleem Khan got 12,290 votes, again an encouraging sign for the PDM parties.

In NA-246 Karachi (South-I), Abdul Shakoor Shad of the PTI got 53,029 votes to defeat the TLP candidate. However, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the PPP got 39,347 votes, MMA’s Moulana Noor Ul Haq got 33,220 votes, Saleem Zia of the PML-N got 19,137 votes and MQM-P’s Mehfooz Yar Khan got 9,853 votes in the election. The collective votes of the PDM parties surpassed what the PTI candidate had bagged in the 2018 elections.

According to the sources, the ruling alliance has also consulted their expected candidates in these constituencies besides the political parties as MQM-P, which is a major stakeholder in Karachi politics, before selecting the constituencies. The PTI is again in a tight position on whether it should contest the by-polls.

Anyhow, the coming by-polls would be a litmus test for the popularity of both the PTI and the PDM. No doubt, the PTI has recently proved its popularity in Punjab by-elections. When a general seat in the National Assembly becomes vacant not later than one hundred and twenty days before the term of that Assembly is due to expire, an election to fill the seat shall be held within 60 days from the occurrence of the vacancy, says the Constitution.