ISLAMABAD: Polling for the 41 National and provincial assembly seats in the four provinces and Islamabad is underway in the by-election, which would continue till 5:00 pm today (Thursday).
As many as 500 candidates are in the fray in which 8.5 million voters have to elect their representatives.
There is a public holiday in 33 districts where the by-polls are being held.The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) faces a tough task of maintaining the tally of its seats in the National Assembly, which it clinched in the May 11 general elections, by retaining them in the by-polls.
Its nominees, who succeeded in more than one constituency, vacated the maximum number of seats, five, compared to all the other key political parties.
On the other hand, its main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), vacated just two National Assembly seats. Thus, the PTI’s stakes are higher in the by-elections than that of PML-N.
The PTI chairman left three won seats, NA-1 Peshawar, NA-71 Mianwali and NA-56 Rawalpindi while he had contested for four. He faced defeat in a Lahore constituency at the hands of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, now the National Assembly Speaker. Later, he retained NA-56. Another senior PTI leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi resigned from the Islamabad seat, NA-48, and kept his native Multan seat.
PTI Secretary General Pervez Khattak, who was later elected as chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), retained the provincial seat and left the national seat, NA-5 Nowshera. PTI KP President Speaker Asad Kaisar also kept the provincial assembly seat and resigned from NA-13 Swabi.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulemae Islam (JUI) will retain its strength in the National Assembly if it was able to win the NA-27 Lakki Marwat that the party chief had secured. He had also won NA-25 Dera Ismail Khan where the by-poll has been postponed by the ECP on account of law and order problem. After getting three seats, Fazlur Rehman kept NA-24 Dera Ismail Khan.
The JUI fielded Asad Mehmood, the PTI Engineer Dawar Khan Kundi, and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Fazal Karim Kundi, the former National Assembly deputy speaker, in the contest for NA-25. The PML-N sponsored no candidate and let Fazlur Rehman take care of the PTI and PPP nominees if he can.
In NA-27, Fazlur Rehman’s younger brother Ataur Rehman is the JUI candidate and faces PTI’s Amirullah besides 14 other contestants. The PML-N has not put up any candidate here as well, and let the JUI test his main rivals. The PPP has also no representative for this constituency.
By-election is also being held for one Balochistan seat, NA-262 Killa Abdullah, which was won by Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) chief Mehmood Achakzai along with NA-259 Quetta. He retained NA-259.
Pir Pagara’s PML-Functional vacated just one seat, NA-235 Sanghar.
Prominent PPP leader Shazia Marri, who was defeated in this constituency on May 11 by a close margin, is again vying for it against the PML-F competitor Khuda Bux Dar. Last time, Pagara’s brother Pir Sadruddin Shah won by securing 74,062 votes while Ms Marri had bagged 62,231 votes.
PPP deserter Jamshed Dasti also got two Muzaffargarh seats, NA-177 and NA-178, on May 11. He vacated NA-177 for which by-poll will be held on Thursday. He has now fielded his brother, Javed, to face PPP’s Malik Rabbani Khar. The PML-N has no representative to contest.
The PPP, which performed vry poorly in the May 11 elections, had no seat to vacate, necessitating the by-poll. Four National Assembly seats, NA-83 Faisalabad, NA-103 Hafizabad, NA-237 Thatta and NA-254 Karachi, are not included in the tally of won constituencies of any political party for different reasons.
Polling for NA-83 and NA-254 was postponed due to the death of candidates while the ECP ordered recounting in NA-103 and polling for NA-237 was stayed by a court of law.
The PML-N’s election campaign was absolutely lukewarm, and it appeared as if it was not fighting the by-polls. None of its top leaders spearheaded it in any part of Pakistan. The PPP’s canvassing was also non-existent. In the absence of their involvement, there was no trading of tirades between the two, which are usual on such occasions.
However, Imran Khan and Fazlur Rehman carried out full-throttled campaigns and tried hard to paint each other black, bringing in the “Jewish factor” again and again. How far this has worked will be clear on Thursday night when the results, particularly from KP constituencies, will start pouring in.
APP adds: In all, 522 candidates will be in running on 15 National Assembly and 26 provincial assembly constituencies, with 201 candidates contesting for the National Assembly constituencies across the country, 180 candidates for 15 Punjab Assembly constituencies, 82 candidates for four Sindh Assembly constituencies and 27 and 32 candidates for four constituencies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and four Balochistan Assembly constituencies.
The Election Commission has set up over 7,000 polling stations across the country with around 1,800 sensitive and over 1,500 highly sensitive polling stations, where personnel of armed forces will be deployed.
According to the data available with the ECP, in seven National Assembly and 15 provincial assembly constituencies in the Punjab, 3,861 polling stations have been set up with 724 sensitive and 297 highly sensitive polling stations.
In Sindh, 1,184 polling stations have been set up for three National Assembly and four provincial assembly constituencies with 365 sensitive and 819 highly sensitive polling stations.
In the KP, around 2,000 polling stations have been set up with nearly 700 sensitive and around 300 highly sensitive polling stations to facilitate voters in four National Assembly and as many provincial assembly constituencies.
As many as 368 polling stations have been set up in Balochistan with 114 sensitive and 196 highly sensitive stations to facilitate voters on one National Assembly and three provincial assembly constituencies. The figure for KP may vary slightly due to the postponement of by-elections in NA-25.
The National Assembly constituencies of by-elections include NA-1 Peshawar-I, NA-5 Nowshera-I, NA-13 Swabi-II, NA-27 Lakki Marwat, NA-48 Islamabad-I, NA-68 Sargodha-V, NA-71 Mianwali-I, NA-83 Faisalabad-IX, NA-103 Hafizabad-II, NA-129 Lahore-XII, NA-177 Muzaffargarh-II, NA-235 Sanghar-II, NA-237 Thatta, NA-254 Karachi-XVI and NA-262 Killa Abdullah.
The constituencies of provincial assemblies include PP-6 Rawalpindi-VI, PP-51 Faisalabad-I, PP-118 MB Din-III, PP-123 Sialkot-III, PP-142 Lahore-VI, PP-150 Lahore-XIV, PP-161 Lahore-XXV, PP-193 Oakara-IX, PP-210 Lodhran-IV, PP-217 Khanewal-VI, PP-243 DG Khan-IV, PP-247 Rajanpur-I, PP-254 Muzaffargarh-IV, PP-289 RY Khan-V and PP-292 RY Khan-VIII from Punjab province, PS-12 Shikarpur-II, PS-64 Mirpurkhas-I, PS-95 Karachi-VII and PS-103 Karachi-XV from Sindh; PK-23 Mardan-I, PK-27 Mardan-V, PK-42 Hangu-I and PK-70 Bannu-I from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and PB-29 Nasirabad-II, PB-32 Kachhi-III and PB-44 Lasbela-I from Balochistan.
The Election Commission has made arrangements to hold the by-elections with deployment of sufficient polling staff as well as security personnel to thwart any untoward incident. The commission has activated the SMS service (8300) to facilitate the voters for knowing details about their vote.