LAHORE: Though NA-124, Lahore-II still seems a stronghold of the PML-N, yet it has a test of nerves ahead of the upcoming general elections in the form of PTI which is relying mainly on a vote bank comprising majority of youths.
Hamza Shahbaz of the PML-N is the most likely candidate of the party from this seat whereas the PTI has fielded a former Union Council Nazim from Allama Iqbal Town, Nauman Qaiser while ignoring its stalwart Muhammad Madni who contested from this seat in the last general elections.
On the provincial seats, Hamza is also expected to contest on one, which is PP-146 and on the other seat, last time winner Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman is the expected candidate of the party. The PTI expected candidates on the provincial seats are Zaman Naseeb and Tariq Saadat whereas Waqar Malik is also in the race for ticket.
The PPP, which is facing a critical situation in Punjab, however, has found candidates for this seat in the form of former Millat Party activist Ch Zaheer who has recently joined Pakistan Peoples Party and running for the NA slot. On the provincial seats, the PPP has pitched Mian Shahid Abbas from PP-146 and Malik Asgher from PP-147.
Mian Shahid is a staunch party loyalist who is contesting for the third time from the provincial seat whereas Malik Asgher alias Malik Billu hails from the rural side of the constituency and his standing with party isn’t very long.
Under the fresh delimitations, NA-124 has been carved out while bifurcating previous NA-119 from where Hamza Shahbaz, son of the PML-N President Mian Shahbaz Sharif got elected twice, once unopposed in 2008 and then in 2013.
The current NA-124 comprises of the Union Councils, including UC 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 172 and 118.The provincial seats falling under the NA seat this time are PP-146 and PP-147.
As per the details provided by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the total number of registered voters in the NA constituency is 522,226; out of which male voters are 294,647 and female voters are 227,579.
The constituency comprises of a vast and highly populated portion of Lahore, including its historic part of walled city areas such as Lohari Gate, Mochi Gate, Sheranwala Gate, Mohri Gate, Masti Gate, Yakki Gate, Delhi Gate. It also includes areas such as Railway Road, Qila Gujjar Singh as well as complete Northern Lahore, including the areas of Misri Shah, Sultanpura, Tezab Ahata, Swami Nagar, Shuja Colony, Wassanpura, Shadbagh and some part of Badami Bagh.
Main roads and markets of Lahore, including Circular Road, Misri Shah, Loha Market, Landa Bazaar, Naulakha are also part of this seat.Under the fresh delimitations, some villages like Bhamman, Jhuggian, Karol, that used to be the part of previous NA-123 have also been included in this constituency and it is home to around one million people.
Kashmiris, Arains and Rajputs, like any other part of Lahore are the major clans in this constituency followed by Mughals, Jutts, Mohajirs from Indian Punjab, Pakhtuns.Nevertheless, more than clan factor, political parties, chiefly PML-N has shown dominance in this area at the electorate.
Traditionally, this constituency has been a stronghold of Muslim League and since 1988, Muslim League or its allied parties, either under the banner of Islami Jamhuri Ittehad or later in the form of Muslim League Nawaz have won from here.
From 1988 to 1997, the present NA-124 comprised mainly of two old National Assembly constituencies, including NA-92 and NA-96. One entire provincial seat from previous NA-96 and one entire from previous NA-92 were merged to form a new constituency in the form of NA-119 in 2002 polls.
The areas which used to be the part of old NA-92 until 1997 were entire Northern Lahore, starting from Farooq Ganj, Misri Shah to Bhamman Village and the provincial seat used to be PP-117 from where PPP won only once in 1988 and IJI or PML-N later emerged victorious rest of the time.
The areas which were included from previous NA-96 included entire walled city and some external parts like Circular Road, Landa Bazaar etc.Historically, this has been a battleground between Muslim League and PPP until 2013 when the PTI replaced Peoples Party in the contest. This can rightly be called a home seat of Sharif family as four of its members in the form of Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz have won in different terms from the area that fall in present NA-124.
Between 1988 and 1997, when present NA-124 used to be NA-92 and NA-96, noted political figures have emerged victorious from this side which include former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who won from NA-92 in the 1993 polls, his brother Abbas Sharif in the by-poll, current President of PML-N and former chief minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif who won consecutively from previous NA-96 in the 1990, 1993, 1997 general elections and his son Hamza Shahbaz, who won in 2008 and 2013.
In different by-polls, noted figures like Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Pervaiz Malik and Kamil Ali Agha have also been elected as MNAs from this part of Lahore. From the walled city side, PPP won only once in 1988 when Jehangir Badr emerged victorious from two seats and in the by-poll, Zia Bakht Butt of PPP won after a tough contest.
From the areas falling under previous NA-92, only PPP figure who won the poll was Dr Ziaullah Khan Bangash who won from PP-117 in 1988 elections. The PPP MNA ticket holder Sheikh Rafique Ahmed lost the poll after a tough contest against Hafiz Muhammad Hussain Ansari, who contested on the ticket of Pakistan Awami Ittehad will full backing of IJI.
In 2002, when the constituency became NA-119, no member of the Sharif family could contest the election as Nawaz and Shahbaz were in exile whereas Hamza didn’t file nominations.
The PML-N fielded Khawaja Saad Rafique from this seat who won with a lead of over 21,000 against PPP’s Jehangir Badr. Saad won from both NA and PP seats but PML-N suffered a setback as on the provincial seat, it was PML-Q’s Qaiser Amin Butt who emerged victorious against Inamullah Niazi of Nawaz League from PP-142.
From the other provincial seat that was PP-141, Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, son of former Mayor Lahore Mian Shuja-ur-Rehman won the seat on the PML-N ticket.
In 2008 polls which were held while Sharifs were back in Pakistan, the PML-N fielded Hamza Shahbaz from this seat which he won un-opposed. The polls were postponed due to the death of a contesting candidate Tariq Banday of the PML-Q and later, in the by-poll, PPP withdrew its candidate Zakrya Butt after which Hamza won uncontested.
Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman and Mian Mujtaba remained the winner of the provincial seats and both enjoyed the status of Minister between 2008 and 2013 as Mujtaba served as Finance, Education and Excise Minister whereas Salman served as adviser to chief minister on health.
In the 2013 general elections, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif once again emerged victorious and won both NA and PP seat. He retained the NA seat and the PML-N fielded Khwaja Salman from the PP-142 seat after he had lost in general election at the hand of PTI’s Dr Murad Raas from PP-152.
Once again, both the sitting MPAs of PML-N from this constituency were inducted as ministers in the cabinet of CM Shahbaz Sharif.
Development work and challenges
Being the constituency of son of the chief minister, the state machinery remained active in carrying out development work throughout last 10 years.
The area witnessed tremendous change as compared to past in form of construction of new roads, setting up of dispensaries, water filtration plants, beautification and renovation of family parks, measures to control dengue outbreak, removal of solid waste, up-gradation of hospitals and installation of lights. Even these days, when not much time is left in the general elections, uplift work is underway in different areas.
Nevertheless, like other parts of the city, local people, in the survey conducted by The News raised complaints regarding the apathy of elected representatives as well as the City Administration which for last couple of years has been led by Mayor Lahore Col (R) Mubashir.
“Nobody has visited us after winning the election, neither the MNA, nor MPA or any Mayor” said a resident of Yakki Gate while pointing towards a drain that has been uncovered for years.
When The News team visited the area of Yakki Gate, it was revealed that a nearly five feet wide but many feet deep drain had been inviting some serious incident. “It’s a routine, motorcyclists and passersby most often become a trap and fall into it, they suffer injuries but nobody cares’ said a local roadside barber. He also told that when the supporters of ruling parties came to canvas for the vote, the local people linked their support to the PML-N with the construction of boundary wall around the drain after which the work had started.
The locals also stated that this drain is a breeding ground for mosquitoes but not a single time in last 10 years, measures were taken to address this issue.
This is noteworthy that this un-attended drain falls in the constituency of former health minister Khwaja Salman Rafique. However, being a subject related to the district government, The News tried to seek views of Lord Mayor Lahore Col (R) Mubashir but he didn’t respond.
Interestingly, a park situated just outside Yakki Gate was very well-maintained and was very much admired by the visiting families. Thus, situation inside and outside the Yakki Gate area was presenting a totally different story.
Almost similar case prevailed when The News team visited Government Nawaz Sharif Hospital, situated in the same area. Apparently, from the main entrance, the hospital and adjoining areas were found very clean where staff was found performing its duty vigilantly. But at the back gate of the hospital, situation was deplorable.
Waste and construction material was lying just outside the backdoor entrance of Nawaz Sharif Hospital and a group of youth playing cricket there told The News that for last many days, the city administration hadn’t bothered to visit this area after digging the road. The road was dug to lay the sewage pipeline, said Adnan, a local resident. He told that the road had already been constructed but just a couple of months before upcoming elections, it was dug again and the people were told that fresh water pipelines were being laid.
During the survey of the constituency, it was found that road repair work or other projects were still underway in its different parts with not much time left in the polls.
An embarrassing situation occurred just a couple of weeks ago when in Union Council 45, Shadbagh, a truck carrying charcoal was stuck in the road at the time when repair work was underway. This caused a long traffic jam in that street which leads to main road, Shadbagh, thus inviting serious flak of local people on the PML-N led city administration.
The efficiency of the city administration further exposed when in different parts of Misri Shah, sewage was overflowing and streets seemed flooded with water.
“We don’t know whom to complain, the LG members say we are powerless and the MNA, MPAs don’t visit us” said Syed Kabir Iftikhar, a resident of Shadbagh, an area from where Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman got elected consecutively for three terms.
In the current NA-124, the city administration’s failure is also visible to address the issue of encroachment due to which traffic block has become a routine. The areas of Circular Road, Naulakha and Misri Shah are massively encroached but concerned Shalamar Town or Ravi Town Administrations take action very seldom.
Law and Order
Like other parts of Lahore, the constituency has also been in news for a number of law and order related incidents such as robbery, dacoity, even incidents like that involved killing of citizens. The major complaint raised by the people was that police doesn’t register FIR of the incident which adds to the woes of the aggrieved.
Political scene in 2018 general elections
Despite so many challenges, the PML-N still stands the highest chance more than any other party in this constituency for multiple reasons. First of all, this constituency is a part of Lahore which has been a base camp of the PML-N and being the home of top leadership, their connectivity with the constituency always comes as advantage for the party.
Moreover, for last 10 years, and before 2002, the PML-N has ruled in Punjab due to which it quite successfully increased its vote bank while obliging its organisations, carrying out development work in the constituency and during election campaigns, the PML-N hasn’t faced much trouble in wooing the voters till 2013.
Disadvantages faced by PML-N
With advantages, the PML-N is also facing some disadvantages in NA-124 like other constituencies. The issues of governance, failure of the PML-N government in fulfilling it pre-poll commitments over loadshedding, controlling price-hike and above all, rising of PTI as an alternate choice for the voters have increased the disadvantages of Nawaz League. In this constituency, till the 2002 elections, PPP has also shown a significant vote bank and now major chunk of its vote has shifted to PTI, thus making it an ultimate beneficiary of the situation. Besides, absence of sitting MPAs such as Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman from the constituency affairs has also annoyed many the PML-N voters. This is noteworthy that Mujtaba has been a ticket-holder of provincial seat for last three terms and no other party member had been awarded ticket so far. In this way, resentment is also high in party circles among those who have been denied tickets all the time which eventually could result in a decrease in party vote bank. They could accept Hamza as MNA but can’t accept Mujtaba as MPA all the time, said a party voter.
With this, the formation of two religious parties in form of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Ullah and Milli Muslim League, the PML-N has lost a decent chunk of religious vote bank. Now, the MMA is also fielding candidates from the constituency which means that the PML-N isn’t expected to get religious vote which traditionally has been its parts.
In the walled city area, Shia population also possesses a significant vote bank which in a tough contest could play a decisive role. This vote has mostly been a part of PPP but this time, PTI could also attain it, thus adding to the disadvantages of the PML-N.
The PML-N is mainly relying on its traditional vote bank but the PTI has worked on youth of the constituency which is reflected from the fact that on both the provincial seats, it has fielded young candidates in the form of Zaman Naseeb, a businessman who belongs to Kakkay Zai clan, contesting from PP-146 against Hamza and Tariq Saadat, an MBA contesting from PP-147 against Mujtaba.
Expressing their views, both Zaman Naseeb and Tariq Sadaat admitted that they were facing a tough contest ahead but stated that party would create history this time.
The News tried to contact Hamza Shahbaz and Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman to seek their comments for NA-124 but neither of them picked up the phone.