Multan

The clash of titans is round the corner. The proxy war being fought between the PML-N and PTI in National Assembly’s constituency NA-149 Multan-11 is going to turn into a final showdown in no more than a day as the polling for the by-election in this constituency will take place tomorrow (Thursday).

Neither PTI nor PML-N fielded any candidate for this election, yet the volume of efforts put in by both the parties clearly indicates how desperate they are to win this battle. The PML-N backs independent candidate Javed Hashmi, vying on electoral sign of Bucket, while the PTI aligns with another independent Malik Aamir Dogar, Rabbit.

The only candidate contesting election on a major party ticket is PPPP’s Dr Javed Siddiqui, who is vying with electoral sign of Arrow. Political analysts are of the opinion that contesting election on party’s sign may give a little benefit to the PPPP candidate as its voter will go to the polling station with a clear choice. However, it will not have any major impact on the result. While the PTI is likely to benefit from an overwhelming self-motivation phenomenon found in its voters, the PML-N has deployed a sizable contingent of MNAs, MPAs and former MPs to motivate its supporters for coming to the polling stations.

It is believed that the real match is between Javed Hashmi and Aamir Dogar and the political career of the former, who defected PTI and is being backed by his old camp PML-N, will be determined by the result of the election.

The NA-149 seat had got vacated because of Javed Hashmi’s defection from PTI and consequent resignation from National Assembly and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) scheduled a re-election for October 16th. The security and by-election arrangements have been finalised as 286 polling stations are set up in the constituency for 3,41,527 registered voters which will be guarded by 3,574 policemen. The polling is scheduled to begin at 8:00 am and would continue without any interval till 5:00 pm.

If the PML-N has dispatched a bunch of its election experts comprising existing and former MNAs and MPAs, besides assigning duties to its local MPs and office-bearers, the PTI does not lag behind. It retaliated with a gigantic public meeting at Qasim Bagh Stadium on October 10th. Once being thought as a major boost to PTI’s campaign, the event, however, exposed PTI leadership to strong criticism as the stampede, which took place at the end of the public meeting claimed seven lives.

The PML-N’s election campaign is being supervised by MNA Mehr Ishtiaq and Saud Majeed while an MPA from Muzaffargarh Hammad Nawaz Tipu, MPAs against minority seats Merry Gill and Shakil Khokhar, Gujranwala-fame Pomi Butt and many others are continuously visiting Multan to win support for their candidate from minority voters as well as different clans.

It is learnt that the constituency, which sprawls over both urban and rural areas, has been divided into many portions by the PML planners and local MNAs and MPAs have been assigned the duty of canvassing and bringing the voters out on polling day. The PML-N MNA from Shujabad Javed Ali Shah and MPA Mian Shahzad Mabool Bhutta have been assigned PP-198, Senator Malik Rafiq Rajwana and ticket holder Malik Anwar Ali PP-194, MPA Haji Ehsan Uddin Qureshi and Ex-MNA Sheikh Tariq Rasheed PP-197 and PP-195 former MNA Rana Mahmood ul Hassan and Ex-MPA Aamir Saed Ansari.

Different political parties already in alliance with the PML-N like JUI (F), Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith and Anjuman Azadari Council have also announced to support Hashmi.

On the other side, PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi is leading his camp as he succeeded to win an official go-ahead sign for Malik Aamir Dogar from the core committee of the PTI. Besides PTI, many political and religious parties like Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Shia Ulema Council, Nizam-e-Mustafa Party, Civil Society NGOs Network and Muttahida Shehri Mahaaz have also announced their support to Aamir Dogar.

As far as the PPPP is concerned, its performance in this constituency in last (2013) election was not good. However, its candidate Dr Javed Siddiqui’s election campaign is being run by former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, whose influence cannot be underestimated. Malik Aamir Dogar, the then PPPP candidate and now being backed by PTI, got just 20,703 votes and stood third, far behind from the winner PTI’s Javed Hashmi, who got 83,569. Sheikh Tariq Rasheed of PML-N got 73,861 votes. Political observers believe that the Gilani factor will benefit Dr Javed Siddiqui, but still he is not being taken as a winning candidate.

A total of 35 candidates had submitted their nomination papers from this constituency, but 17 had withdrawn. Currently, a total of 18 are in the run but two candidates Fayaz Khan, electoral sign Bottle, and,Shakil Butt, Drum, announced to withdraw in favour of Javed Hashmi while Ch Abdullah, Hanger, withdrew in favour of Dr Javed Siddiqui.

The other candidates in the run include former MNA Sheikh Tahir Rasheed with electoral sign Goat, Boota Sarfraz Dressing Table, Ch Tariq Zaman Still Camera, Hakim Moen Qureshi Pressure Cooker, Muhammad Hussain Qureshi Gramophone, Rashid Jamal Hen, Rana Khalil Suitcase, Rana Faraz Noon Heater, Muhammad Rafi Khan Watermelon, Prof Latif Ansar Lajpal Toothbrush and Yousuf Bhatti Glass.

Keeping in view the on-going tug of war between the PTI and PML-N, the eyes of entire country are on the election. Free And Fair Election Network (FAFN), an NGO working on electoral reforms, has announced to deploy 72 observers with the collaboration of a local NGO Pattan on the polling day to monitor the election.

Placing 106 polling stations in “A” category, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has declared them highly sensitive while 97 fall in “B” and 8 in “C” category. The District Returning Officer Muhammad Shahid says that the arrangements for conducting the by-election are complete. “We’ve received ballot papers, boxes and other stationary including ink from the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he said while talking to this scribe. He added that 774 presiding officers (142 female + 144 male), 1,548 polling officers and assistant presiding officers were deputed for election duty.