LAHORE - The inmates of NA-120 Lahore pin high hopes on Maryam Nawaz Sharif after they were “neglected over the last three decades” for the development of this pet constituency of the PML-N that did not let the party down even in the 2002 election when then president Gen Pervez Musharraf’s fury against the N-League and its leadership was at the peak and he hankered after their marginalisation in politics.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had won NA-120 seat in 2013 while it was retained by his spouse Begum Kalsoom Nawaz in the by-election on September 17 held after the disqualification of the three-time premier by the Supreme Court on July 28. The couple had routed potential candidate of PTI, Yasmin Rashid albeit on a different margin of victory. Nawaz Sharif had won the seat with the lead of 39,345 votes which squeezed to 14,646 contrary to the party expectations. The sharp fall in the victory margin was a warning for the ruling party in its centre of power.

However, the voters find a big change after victory of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz in NA-120 which by all means and stretch of imagination is indebted to her daughter Maryum Nawaz who launched a lively and unprecedented campaign for her ailing mother and won hearts and minds of people in this core constituency of the city against heavy odds.

The basic issues pending unaddressed since decades are now being taken care of under the direction and command of Maryam who after September 17 victory of her mother did not abandon this constituency but remained a frequent visitor to have first-hand information of the problems facing the people.

During a survey of this constituency, this scribe was amazed to see that voters of rival parties also admired Maryam Nawaz for the welfare works going on under her supervision, yet a section of the PML-N sounded dissatisfied with all that given the past behavior shown to them by party winners both on NA and PA seats. Yet another chunk of voters lamented the missing basic facilities despite the fact many development projects were seen underway at the moment. For them the ongoing developments are merely cosmetic and have occasioned only to politically entrench Maryam Nawaz Sharif in this constituency for next elections. They think it will be the business as usual once she reaches the parliament. Another new feature observed was of the religious element which was gradually getting a foothold in NA-120 on the sensitive issues like Khatme Nabuwat  (Finality of Prophethood) (SAW). This segment suffices to give a dent to the mainstream party in the next election although it still needs to go a long way to get victory in NA-120, a constituency which so far is sharply divided between the PML-N and the PTI vote-bank.

Under the fresh delimitations, NA-120 has been renamed NA-125 and has also been cut down in size at the Bund road tail end while the strength of voters has been increased from 0.322 million to over 0.7million. The constituency is a combine of high upper, middle and lower middle class people. It has posh areas like Governor’s House, Masson Road, the Mall, Cooper Road on the one side and on the middle class localities like Lower Mall, Sanda Road, Rewaz Garden, Mohni Road, Rajgarh, Bund Road,  Islampura, Katchiabadi, Kasurpura, Gunj Buksh, Bialal Gunj, New Anakali, Shah Alam Chowk, Lake Road, Circular Road, Temple Road, Shahrae Fatma Jinnah, Mominpura, Moj Darya Road, Hall Road, Abid Market, Mozang Chungi, Safanwala Chowk, Jinazgah, Shadab Colony, Davis Road, Beadon Road, Nisbat Road, Gandhi Square and others parts. They all count for actual strength of voters in this constituency.

Perhaps it is only the constituency of the city which houses all important official sites, including Punjab Assembly, Governor House, CM Secretariat, Civil Secretariat, Lahore High Court, Sessions Civil and District Courts. The residential areas in NA-120 are mainly housed in small streets, katchiabadis, mohallah and main roads.  As such the city constituency could safely be called representing the true character of Lahore. Most of the business class people in this constituency are from other part of the city but their holding is affecting the locals about their commuting and healthy atmosphere. At some places small factories in the residential areas were also reported by the locals.

The Constituency also houses three main churches and first class English medium schools, the largest hospital Mayo Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Mushi Hospital apart from Punjab university, MAO College, FJMC, Jinnah Girl College, Civil Lines College, Polytechnic institute, and Islamic College Cooper Road, that are providing for health and  education  of all and are NA-120 people specific. The facilities at dispensaries and schools were seen not adequate while cleanliness system was very poor. Littering  and  heaps of  garbage  were seen at many places even outside the  newly developed Mozang  Hospital where the  people also complained of inadequate staff and  non-operational emergency when the survey was conducted. Open manholes and sewerage water standing at some places were greatly troubling the people.

Majority of the people in this constituency, chiefly rankle at the non-availability of clean drinking water, choked sewerage system and dug out roads and streets which they say are causing them multiple health hazards against meager medical facilities.  They also repine for not getting due reward from the PML-N for they always voted the PML-N candidates and twice Nawaz Sharif to the Parliament and he became the prime minster and this time round, the voters of this constituency, elected Begum Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif in her absence. They say being a constituency of the prime minister, it deserved the best facilities and a role model status for others. But the residents say that they have been greatly disappointed by the fact that the former prime minster never returned to them after winning the election nor the funds allocated were utilized fairly on the development. They also wondered why the government wakes up to the development program only at the close of its term?

During the campaign period in August-September last, roads were carpeted and construction of street, installation of street light, and even water filtration plants along with revamping of dispensaries etc in the area began at very fast-track. There were some roads which were constructed overnight since Maryam Nawaz had to visit that part but after the polls were over pace of work slowed down which cast negative impact on the voters. At the moment, a chronic problem of old sewerage and water lines are being replaced with wider and commodious ones. For that the roads have been dug out causing tremendous problems to the masses. They are being completed at fast pace now.

This constituency has the Orange Line Train track running from Chouburji to Laxmi Chowk. For power supply line to Metro, road from Mozang to ahead of Safanwala chowk has been dug out, that, along with Metro underground digging, is showing up a serious public nuisance at the moment. Cleanliness was far below the standard at the middle class areas where the people also complained of absence of water filtration plant when the official figure report installation of over 50 filtration plant. Schools and dispensaries are being improved. Students at the public school complained of less grounds for sports activity in the constituency.

A shopkeeper in Mozang Bazaar, who claimed to have been ancestrally living here over the last many centuries, appeared greatly annoyed with the PML-N MPAs and the local body representatives. He said he and other relations were staunch supporters of PML-N but they are now fed up with this party due to misbehavior and cold response to their grievances by the elected representatives who, he added, are only concerned with satisfying their lust for money or favouring their kith and kin. He also said at the time of Kalsoom Nawaz campaign Rs1.13 billion funds were diverted to the development of NA-120 but no one knows how fairly they were spent when the word goes against MPA Majid Zahoor for setting up three bungalows on Masson Road in addition to setting up a dairy form when he had no such means of income earlier. Many complained about the absence of street lights and proper security. A resident Ramzan, around 50, grieved that funds of billions of rupees had been allocated for constituency over the last five years but no substantial improvement was made and the condition of NA-120 remained by and large the same.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Yasmin Rashid, who contested the NA-120 seat against Kalsoom Nawaz, said development work in the area was merely a drama to mislead the public of the constituency. She said in a report that had the ruling PML-N been serious about developing this constituency it would have done it long before.

Majid Zahoor who was elected MPA from this constituency strongly denied the charges and offered to give them to anyone who proved the property belonged to him. He said about 70,000 water meters and sewerage pipelines have been provided and about 70 per cent development works in the area has been completed. He said they had renovated as many as 25 dispensaries and provided facilities to schools. He also said about the fully operational Mozang Hospital with best services. He said Sanda road is being completed while a Sports Complex costing Rs 450million is also being developed in the constituency. As to the question of auditing of funds used on this constituency, he said, auditing was not his job but only to point out development schemes which he did. How much fairly the funds were used is outside his domain. To a question as to the quantum of funds made for this constituency during the current government of PML-N, Majid Zahoor said, it was about Rs 2.5billion which was spent on the development works in this constituency transparently and honestly. He said huge spending was made on the projects that were unattended in the past.

Election on this constituency after the next few months will be very interesting in view of the changing political atmosphere in the country.

In nutshell, the inmates of NA-120 optimistically believe that Maryam Nawaz after winning the polls in this constituency will deliver and do what no other did for them in the past as they believe their  problems are addressed only after her intervention. However the fact cannot be overlooked that Maryam Nawaz despite enjoying the image of ‘healer’ among people of this constituency is facing Accountability references that on seamy side of the picture, can also make her disqualified to take part in the election. And in that eventuality, who will run for this seat of Nawaz Sharif family is a big question. Addressing this proposition, MPA Majid Zahoor said that in any event, the final decision will by the Sharifs. If any adverse decision affected Maryam Nawaz, then she will herself decide who would take part in her stead from this constituency, he added.

Given the fact low margin victory in the last by-polls, however it was found in the survey that the [arty needs to live up to the promises made on development works with the voters and their continuity. That how closely the NA candidate the party be in touch with the voters particularly that of the middle class localities and what faces the voters would see on the subordinate PA seats of this constituency. The youth have been found offended in the constituency and the PML-N will also need to address their woes to woo them in its favour.