LAHORE: Four members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have come face to face to get party ticket for the NA-124 by-polls, a seat vacated by PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz Sharif who took oath in Punjab Assembly.
The PTI ticket aspirants from NA-124 include sitting MLA of Azad Kashmir Legislative Diwan Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din, former ticket holder of NA-119 Muhammad Madni and Dr Shahid Siddique Khan, a party stalwart who contested in 2002 general elections on PTI ticket from then NA-126 and Haji Imtiaz, who also hails from walled city.
The PML-N that has never suffered defeat from this constituency, whether it is a general election or a by-poll, is likely to field former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi from here. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi suffered defeats from both National Assembly seats in the July 25 elections at the hands of PTI’s Sadaqat Abbasi and Asad Umar. Amongst the four aspirants for PTI tickets, Dr Shahid Siddique, Haji Imtiaz have more than 15 years long affiliation with Terheek-e-Insaf Muhammad Madni, the PTI ticket holder from NA-119 (now NA-124) has also been a part of party’s Youth Wing.
Diwan Ghulam Modi-ud-Din, as compared to other three is the latest entry in PTI who joined party in 2016. However, Diwan enjoys an advantage over others for not only being a local resident of the area whose family had been residing in this part of Lahore for more than five decades but also as consecutive winner of AJK Legislative polls where for last 20 years, he has defeated the PML-N. In the area of Shad Bagh and parts of walled city, being a member of Kashmiri clan, bradri factor has always been quite helpful for him in winning the AJK Legislative elections for multiple terms. Diwan was first elected as MLA in 1996 on PPP ticket; later in 2001, after which he quit PPP and won 2006 polls as part of Peoples Muslim League of Barrister Sultan Mehmood. While PPP was in power in centre in 2008, Diwan also made a comeback and became its candidate on AJK seat LA-37, Valley II. However, following the tension between PPP and PML-N groups, polls were postponed on Election Commission’s orders and were not held until 2016 when Diwan joined PTI and won the seat again.
Although, the AJK polls have no comparison with the general and by-elections of Pakistan, particularly Lahore and the NA-124 is no smooth sailing for PTI that is what the situation of the area tells. The PML-N candidate Hamza Shahbaz won this seat while bagging around 130,000 votes against approximately 83,000 secured by PTI’s Nauman Qaiser. This huge difference of margin clearly indicates the level of strength the PML-N possesses at the electorate. Hamza Shahbaz, along with his complete panel, also won this seat in 2013 and 2008 polls whereas in 2002, while party was in crisis with Sharifs in exile, any PML-N candidate that secured victory with the biggest margin in 2002 polls was Khwaja Saad Rafique, who won it against PPP’s Jehangir Badr. The margin was around 21,000 and under the worst times of PML-N, it was largest in 2002. Before Hamza and Saad, noted political figures like Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Humayon Akhter, Mian Azhar have also won from the areas that currently falls in NA-124, a seat that used to NA-119 until 2013 and was partly NA-92 and NA-96 between 1988 to 1997. In case PTI fields Diwan Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din, it will be at least in a position to give a contest owing to his connectivity and relationship with the area. Muhammad Madni, the PTI stalwart who was denied ticket in 2018 general elections, was the runner-up against Hamza in 2013. He also hails from walled city areas. Haji Imtiaz, another aspirant for the party ticket was PTI candidate from PP-142 in 2002 general elections against Khawaja Saad Rafique and secured 1,272 votes. Saad Rafique in that contest won the seat while getting around 17,000 votes and PPP’s Jehangir Badr stood at number two. Saad in 2002 won from both NA and Provincial Assembly seats.
Dr Shahid Siddique Khan, another aspirant of the PTI ticket from NA-124, remained the party ticket holder in 2002 general elections when he was fielded from then NA-126, a seat that was won by MMA candidate Liaqat Baloch with full backing of PML-N. In that contest, Dr Shahid Siddique, got 12,354 votes and after Imran Khan was the only PTI member who got over 12,000 votes in 2002. Imran Khan suffered defeat at the hands of Ayaz Sadiq from then NA-122 and got 18,638 votes.
Areas: Areas falling in the present NA-124 include almost the entire walled city parts like Lohari, Bhaati, Sheranwala, Delhi, Mochi, Mohri, Masti gates as well as areas, including Shad Bagh, some part of Badami Bagh, Misri Shah, Faizbagh, Tezab Ahata, Qila Gujjar Singh etc.
Challenges: NA-124, that comprises of over 400,000 voters and around 30 Union Councils is a hub of challenges such as clean drinking water, sewage problems, encroachments and above all, timely removal of solid waste. Most of the areas of the constituency seem full of heaps of garbage, solid waste and Lahore Waste Management Company remains a centre of people’s criticism for its slackness. Besides, Water and Sanitation Agency is also state-run body whose working is often criticised by the local residents who want proper solution of sewage issues which seem a common problem faced by the population.