LAHORE: The PTI wrested control of Punjab back from the PML-N on Sunday with a landslide victory in the by-election on 20 constituencies.
The party won 15 constituencies, dealing a major blow to the PML-N, who only clinched four.
The by-polls on the 20 Punjab Assembly seats were crucial as they were to decide the fate of Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz. With 15 seats in hand, PTI is likely to defeat Hamza when a recount of votes for the chief minister election takes place on July 22.
A breakdown of the unofficial, preliminary results from today's polls is given below:
A scuffle broke out between PTI and PML-N workers during the polling process in Lahore's constituency PP-158. As a result, one of the PML-N workers sustained a head injury. Meanwhile, PML-N candidate Rana Ahsan Sharafat engaged in a heated argument with PTI leader Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, after which the police apprehended him.
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill was arrested by the Punjab Police for roaming around the city and visiting polling stations during the by-elections with his security guards, who were allegedly dressed as FC personnel, Geo News reported Sunday.
PML-N spokesperson and Punjab Home Minister Atta Tarar confirmed that PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s aide was taken into custody. However, Gill denied the allegations of keeping any security guards dressed up in FC officials' uniforms and claimed that he had been engaged for three hours and was suddenly arrested without a warrant.
The politician said that he will act according to what his lawyers suggest.
Following Gill's arrest, PTI Chairman Imran Khan PTI condemned it, terming the move an attempt to “rig elections”.
"Strongly condemn illegal arrest of Shahbaz Gill simply to try [and] rig elections [and] spread fear in [people]," Khan wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while taking to his Twitter account, once again criticised the performance of PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan, saying his speeches were proof of how “unfit” he was to hold a public office.
“Every speech Imran Niazi delivers shows how unfit he is to hold public office. Under his direct supervision, the PTI has run a sordid campaign to defame national institutions [and] thus undermine Pakistan,” he wrote.
PM Shehbaz said Khan is rewriting Machiavellian principles of politics in his lust for power.
A telephonic conversation between former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and a person named Chaudhry Gul Zaman has been leaked, where the former could be heard talking about Mian Jaleel Ahmed Sharaqpuri.
"Then you handed over the payment to Sharaqpuri as well yesterday," Rasheed could be heard saying. Responding to the former interior minister, the other person could be heard saying that he should be careful about saying anything as it was a telephonic conversation.
Rasheed went on to ask Zaman if he hasn't gone out yet to see how great the election was. To this, Zaman could be heard saying that he will get out and let Rasheed know in a while.
The Election Commission of Pakistan took notice of the fight in Lahore's PP-158 and ordered the district returning officer to review the situation in the constituency and contact security officials.
Responding to the directives, the district returning officer said that the situation will be taken under control soon.
PML-N spokesperson Atta Tarar said that immediate notice of the incident has been taken. He accused PTI's Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and Saeed Mahes of causing head injury to the PML-N worker.
He said that orders for the arrest of these two PTI leaders have been issued.
Tarar further stated that no one can be allowed to disturb the peace. PML-N candidate Ahsan Sharafat remained calm as it can be seen in the footage, he added.
Lashing out at the Election Commission of Pakistan for the alleged errors in the voter lists amid the crucial by-polls on 20 Punjab Assembly constituencies, Gill raised questions over the impartiality of the election body.
Sharing a video of a man on his Twitter account, who claimed that the names of two of his family members are missing from the voter list, Gill asked, “Who is responsible for depriving someone of his right to vote?” He suggested lodging a case under Article 6 of the constitution in this regard.
He also shared another video of a woman poling agent who claimed that rigging was being carried out in the PP-167 constituency. The woman poling agent said that she was forced to leave the polling station after objecting to her CNIC and was not allowed to enter the station for one-and-half hours in the meantime, the voting process remained to continue.
Gill asked, “Is it possible without the involvement of the ECP?”
In another Tweet, the PTI leader criticised the polling staff at a polling station where he claimed that a woman who came to cast her vote was sent to another constituency because her name wasn't on the voters' list.
He asked who is responsible for the data operator's mistakes.
Reacting to Gill's allegations, the Punjab election commissioner said that the polling process shouldn't be made controversial by levelling allegations without confirmation.
He rejected the allegations of expelling polling agents out of polling stations 46 and 47 in Muzaffargarh.
The provincial election commissioner further stated that the polling agents verified by political parties are allowed to sit at the polling stations.
Meanwhile, the returning officer said that PTI's polling agent Amir Bakhsh was present at polling station number 44, but no polling agent of PTI arrived at polling station number 46.
Reacting to the PTI leader’s statement, a spokesperson of the ECP said that the chief election commissioner has given clear directions to the IG Punjab and the chief secretary of the province that no retaliatory action should be taken against any civilian/people.
The CEC has warned of strict action if retaliatory action is taken against anybody, the spokesperson added. He maintained that the CEC directed to take all possible measures to ensure free and fair elections in the province
Earlier in the day, polling for by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly seats began amid tight security.
These seats fell vacant as a result of the revolt within the PTI. The PML-N, the ruling party in Punjab, needs to win at least 10, out of 20 seats, to stay in power, whereas the PTI needs to win at least 13 seats to regain its lost crown in Punjab.
Hamza Shehbaz Sharif became chief minister after 25 MPAs of the PTI, 20 directly elected and five elected on reserved seats, voted for him, against the party line The hallmark of the by-polls is the presence of many political heavyweights, including seven former provincial ministers, contesting the polls. They include Ajmal Cheema, Nauman Langrial, Faisal Jabona, Malik Asad Khokhar, Malik Asif Bha, Haroon Sultan Bokhari and Saeed Akber Niwani.
A sitting MNA, Syed Zain Qureshi, former MNAs Saifuddin Khosa, and Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar are contesting by-polls either on the PML-N and the PTI or as independent candidates. Out of the 20 seats, four are in Lahore, the heart of Pakistan and the provincial capital, due to which significance of the elections has increased manifold.
The most discussed contest is the one taking place in Multan, PP-217, where PML-N’s Sheikh Salman Naeem is contesting against Syed Zain Qureshi, son of former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. On the same seat, Shah Mehmood Qureshi was defeated by Sheikh Salman Naeem in the 2018 general election, who won the seat as an independent candidate. Sheikh Salman Naeem is also known to have been a choice of Jehangir Khan Tareen and his victory in 2018 deprived Qureshi of becoming the Punjab chief minister. Now Shah Mehmood’s son, Makhdoom Syed Zain Qureshi, who is also a sitting MNA, is contesting from this seat to avenge the defeat of his father.
In PP-272, Muzaffargarh, two people of the same family are contesting against each other. Haroon Sultan Bokhari, former provincial minister, is contesting as an independent candidate against his real brother Syed Basit Sultan Bokhari’s wife. Haroon, the three-time winner of the seat, also lost to his mother in the 2018 elections from the same constituency when she was the PTI candidate. After voting Hamza in the CM election, the sitting MPA faced disqualification and on the vacant seat, her son Basit Sultan has now fielded his wife and he is contesting against Syed Haroon.
The third major contest is taking place in Dera Ghazi Khan’s PP-288 constituency, where the PTI has fielded Sardar Saifuddin Khosa, son of former governor Punjab Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khosa, and a brother of former CM Punjab Sardar Dost Muhammad Khosa. The PML-N has fielded Abdul Qadir Khan Khosa on the seat, which fell vacant after MPA Mohsin Atta Khosa voted for Hamza Shehbaz.
The election on two seats of Lodhran, the district of Jehangir Khan Tareen, once the close confidant of Imran Khan, has also caught attention. Pir Amir Iqbal Shah, former MPA of 2002 and 2008, is now the PTI candidate from PP-224, where former prisons minister Punjab Zawar Warraich had been pitched as the PML-N candidate after he defected to Nawaz League and voted for Hamza Shehbaz. Pir Iqbal Shah, the father of Amir Iqbal Shah, defeated Ali Tareen in the by-polls held in early 2018, as Jehangir Khan Tareen was disqualified. In 2015, Jehangir Tareen himself got elected after winning the by-polls and this time his group is once again in the by-election.
In PP-228, another seat of Lodhran, Izzat Javaid Khan of the PTI is contesting against Nazeer Ahmad Khan Baloch, former PTI MPA, who voted for Hamza and got disqualified. His father Ahmad Khan Baloch has also served as an MPA.
A very tough contest is taking place in Bhakkar where former provincial minister Saeed Akber Niwani is contesting as the PML-N candidate after being disqualified for voting for Hamza. He has been challenged by Irfanullah Khan Niazi, brother of two former MPAs Najeebullah Khan Niazi and Inamullah Khan Niazi. Both Najeebullah and Inamullah have won the seat in the past for three times, in 1997, 2013 and 2014 by-polls. Niazis defeated Niwanis in the past and this time, a very tough contest is expected again.
In PP-170, Amin Zulqarnain, brother of Aun Chaudhry, once a blue-eyed boy of Imran, is the PML-N candidate this time. He voted for Hamza and faced disqualification. Imran has fielded his stalwart and former MNA Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar from this seat. Zaheer has served as an MNA in 2002 and this is the seat that the PTI believes it will win with a decent margin.
Besides, in PP-83, Khushab, Asif Bha, former provincial minister of Shehbaz Sharif, challenged the PML-N ticket holder Ameer Hyder Sangha. Ameer is a brother of former PTI MPA from this seat Ghulam Rasool Sangha, who defected to the PML-N. The PTI has come up with Malik Hassan Aslam, brother of sitting MNA Umar Aslam. A very tough contest is expected here.
The Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan has also fielded candidates from almost every constituency and in Bahawalnagar, it is also expected that an upset could occur due to the TLP.
The by-polls are going to be held in PP-7, PP-83, PP-90, PP-97, PP-125, PP-127, PP-140, PP-158, PP-167, PP-168, PP-170, PP-202, PP-217, PP-224, PP-228, PP-237, PP-272, PP-273, PP-282 and PP-288 constituencies.
Analysts said that the elections would reflect on the popularity of the two parties, PML-N and PTI, and their narratives.
As over4.5 million voters exercised their democratic right amid by-polls in 20 Punjab constituencies, PM Shahbaz urged the masses to think of the “economic disaster, corruption, patronage of mafias and destruction created in the name of change" during the PTI’s tenure while casting their votes.
In his message to the people dwelling in the constituencies, Shehbaz Sharif said, “Pakistan has moved away from its destination during the tenure of PTI. You have to express it with your vote.”
PM Shehbaz Sharif, in a series of tweets, urged the people to reject the politics of division, hatred, and chaos through the power of their vote.
He maintained that the "ego of an individual and incompetence and way of politics” have ruined the beauty of our society. Expressing full confidence in the people's choice, the prime minister said they should vote for national development and a bright future for their children.
Lashing out at the PTI, the prime minister said Punjab was subjected to the worst governance during the last almost four years, adding that citizens were deprived of free medicines and students of scholarships.
He maintained that there was an open sale of government jobs, postings and transfers in the tenure of PTI. "Civic facilities were in shambles and lawlessness was at its peak during the Imran Khan-led government," the prime minister added.
He termed the treatment of Punjab as an insult to the people of the province.
As per the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) report, over 4.5 million [4,596,873] voters would exercise their right to vote. The ECP statistics revealed that 175 candidates are competing in 20 constituencies where 3,140 polling stations have been set up. Also, a total of 1,471 polling booths have been established in all 20 constituencies. Lahore’s all polling stations have been declared sensitive, and 122 polling stations across all constituencies declared most sensitive. A control room was established at the ECP Punjab office in Lahore to monitor the voting process, according to official sources.
Rangers will be deployed at polling stations in Lahore, Multan and Bhakkar, while Pakistan Army soldiers will also be deployed at sensitive polling stations. The ECP has issued instructions to the law-enforcement agencies to implement the code of conduct.
The ECP, in a statement, said it has also set up special control rooms at central and provincial levels for monitoring, which will “promptly resolve” election-related complaints.
Also, the Punjab government blocked the bridge connecting the province with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa ahead of the by-elections, citing security reasons.
DPO Bhakkar said that the bridge had been closed for any kind of traffic at Dajal Checkpost due to security concerns and it would remain closed till polling ends on Sunday. On the other hand, the decision to block the bridge affected the flow of traffic in the area.
Meanwhile, the military’s media wing said Saturday that Pakistan Army troops would perform only “Quick Reaction Force” duties in case of any law and order situation arising during polling on Sunday (today).
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a statement, said that troops carried out reconnaissance at the most sensitive locations in respective areas as third-tier responders to any law and order situation in the province.
The ISPR said the reconnaissance was carried out in line with the directions of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
In the light of the political tensions ahead of the by-polls, the government has also decided to deploy Frontier Constabulary (FC) in addition to Rangers personnel.
The government has also decided to impose a ban on the movement of armed workers of any political party in the constituencies where the by-polls are being held.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah warned PTI Chairman Imran Khan against disrupting the peaceful proceedings of by-elections by inciting riots or violence. “The law will take its due course if anyone tries to sabotage the writ of the state by indulging in unlawful activities,” the minister said in a tweet.
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