LAHORE   -   Unlike the past a close and tough contest is expected between the ruling PTI and the Opposition PML-N in the by election being held in PP-168 Lahore on December 13.

This seat was vacated by PML-N senior leader and former Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq after he was elected to the National Assembly from NA-131 Lahore in the October last by-polls.

Two days ahead of the polling day, campaign in PP-168 by the PTI and the PML-N candidates has escalated yet the same is short of matching with electioneering of the general election in this Provincial Assembly constituency due to chilly weather in City.

Yet the candidates of the mainstream parties are quite active in meeting the voters door to door, holding corner meetings, opening the election offices and reaching out the main  leaders and groups.

 The constituency has been traditionally favouring the PML-N particularly since 2008 polls.  This time the party has fielded advocate Rana Khalid Qadri while the PTI has given ticket to Malik Asad Ali Khokhar. Asad Ali Khokhar had lost the last general election seat in NA-136 Lahore to PML-N candidate Malik Afzal Khokhar.

Khawaja Saad Rafiq had obtained 34114 votes to defeat the PTI candidate Muhammad Fiaz Bhatti who secured 14940 votes. The PTI candidate is working hard to fill the gap. Rana Khalid has been long affiliated with the PML-N and the party has awarded him ticket recognising his services.

The party is hopeful that committed PML-N voters will not let him down. Enjoying the reputation of nice and gentle person Qadri is also banking on the Rajput votes, one of the main braderies alongwith Mayo and Gujjar in this constituency.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has announced its support to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate in PP-168.

Acknowledging the PPP offer, the PML-N City President and MNA Pervaiz Malik had thanked the PPP leadership.  The PPP had also supported the PML-N in the elections on two Senate seats of Punjab but both were lost to the PTI.

In the same constituency the PPP candidate Muhammad Maqsood in the last election bagged only 2424 votes while against him, Tehike Labaik Pakistan’s Sajid Mahmood had got 9408 votes to stay at third position.

Opposition Leader and PML-N central leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif is personally monitoring election campaign of Qadri while local organisation of the party is also providing him a good help.  Asad Khokhar is a young but politically experienced candidate of the PTI.

His campaign is being supported by the party main leaders including Mian Aslam Iqbal. Khokhar is running campaign in an organised manner to win the votes of major braderies and various groups.

Overall 11 candidates are contesting the by-poll that may also give a dividend to Khokhar.

It is interesting to note that both the main rival candidates in public interaction are highlighting the bad performance of each other.

Qadri is focused on price hike,, soaring value of dollar against rupee, and U-turns of the PTI government, at the same time telling the voters the political victimisation of the party leaders Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif at the hands of the PTI.

The PML-N candidate is also trying to woo the voters by dubbing his rival candidate ‘another ATM machine’ of Imran Khan and not an ideological worker. He is also charging Khokhar with violation of the election laws in his campaign.

Asad Khokhar in the rallies is highlighting the problems of the constituency which remained unresolved during the last 10 years rule of the PML-N while terming the PML-N leadership looter of national wealth whom he hopes, the voters would reject in the by-election.  He is also raising hopes of the people by the change slogan of the PTI.

He states as the largest political party, the PTI, would bring about a real change to usher in a new era of development in the country. He is making commitments with the people of the constituency with development and jobs to them on being elected to the Assembly. The constituency has total registered voters 154586.

PP-168 consists more of downtown of Lahore than the central areas, the residents of the areas are mostly lower and middle class people.  The constituency has Cantonment locality, residential colonies of Attari Saroba, Chungi Amar Sadhu, Kot Lakhpat, Pak Arab Society, Kamaha, Sittara Colony, Baba Farid Colony, Usman Park, Wadda Pind, Pak Town and others.

The constituency has main problems of lack of clean water, dilapidated roads, sewerage, cleanliness, pools of dirty water, pollution, and traffic while the residents also want proper education and health facilities for them as the existing facilities for them are quite insufficient.

No proper play grounds or parks are available to the people of this constituency.