Friday April 12, 2024

NA-120 polls: Claims and counterclaims

By Sabir Shah
September 06, 2017

LAHORE: With just week-and-a-half to go for the eventful September 17 by-election in Lahore’s NA-120 constituency left vacant due to the disqualification of former premier Nawaz Sharif, PTI claimed a cliffhanger while PML-N claims easy win in contest between PML-N’s Begum Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif and PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid.

On September 17, not fewer than 321,786 registered voters will exercise their right of franchise at 220 NA-120 polling stations. In 2013, there were a total of 295,826 registered voters in NA-120, which was actually carved out of NA-95 and NA-96 in 2002 when constituencies were redrawn during General Musharraf’s time.

Although as many as 44 candidates are in the run for this interesting contest scheduled for September 17, PML-N’s Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif and PTI’s Dr. Yasmin Rashid are the two main contestants in the fray. Other notable candidates include PPP’s Faisal Mir and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ziauddin.

While both bookies and punters are placing their bets on ousted premier’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz mainly because NA-120 (a mixture of the localities falling in the previously historic NA-95 and NA-96) has been a happy hunting ground for both Nawaz Sharif and younger sibling Shahbaz Sharif between 1985 and 1997, PTI’s Dr. Yasmin Rashid promises to put up an extremely tough fight in the ring too.

In the party-less general elections of 1985, Nawaz Sharif had won with an overwhelming majority both in the national and provincial assembly election.  He had defeated Jamaat-e-Islami's Syed Asad Gillani (late) in the National Assembly contest, but had opted to retain the provincial assembly seat. The PPP had boycott the 1985 polls though.

On April 9, 1985, he was sworn in as Punjab chief minister. As far as NA-95 is concerned, Nawaz Sharif had emerged victorious from the seat by defeating PPP’s Arif Iqbal Bhatti (late) in 1988, and why not!

He was brought up at Railway Road, went to Saint Anthony’s High School at Lawrence Road and graduated from Government College Lahore---all falling in NA-120. It is noteworthy that former Lahore High Court judge, Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti, had been killed on October 17, 1997 for having acquitted two blasphemy accused, Messrs Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih on February 23, 1995.

In 1990, Nawaz had trampled all over PPP and Tehreek-e-Istaqlal’s joint candidate, Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan.

In 1993, he had defeated PPP’s Zia Bakht Butt (late) and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Hafiz Salman Butt.

In 1997, Nawaz Sharif had again won from the same seat against PPP’s Hafiz Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din. 

Nawaz couldn’t contest the 2002 and 2008 general elections due to exile as well as conviction by the courts.

Those predicting Dr Yasmin Rashid’s win against all odds strangely contend that Imran Khan’s PTI, the runners-up opposition party from NA-120 during the 2013 ballot exercise, had gained more public support than the PML-N despite losing.

Dr Yasmin, who has lived her post-marital life at the famous Temple Road, had managed to bag 52,321 or 34.57 of the total votes cast during the May 2013 elections, when Nawaz Sharif had mustered support of 91,666 or 60.57 voters.

Here follows the logic presented by these PTI die-hards:

During the May 2013 elections, Dr. Yasmin had secured 27, 941 votes more than PPP’s Jahengir Badr, who had won nod of 24,380 or 25.33% voters during the February 18, 2008 polls while contesting against the triumphant PMl’N candidate Bilal Yaseen, who had pocketed 65,946 or 68.51% of the total votes polled.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif (getting 91,666 or 60.57% votes polled) could only add 25,720 votes in 2013 to the tally of his party colleague Bilal Yaseen, who had obtained 65,946 votes in 2008, meaning thereby that the public support had increased for opposition parties between 2008 and 2013 in NA-120!

Talking to The News, a local PML-N legislator Uzma Bukhari said: "The PML-N opposition is living in a fool's paradise, just trying to play with statistics. I recently heard the PPP candidate saying that 40,000 of the 52,000 votes obtained by Yasmin Rashid in 2013 elections were actually polled by his party's supporters. Imran Khan, on the other hand, says it is a contest between the Supreme Court and Nawaz Sharif. Now, are these not confusing statements coming from mentally defeated elements? You cannot counter Nawaz Sharif's voting prowess and support in NA-120. Dr. Yasmin Rashid is crying foul since the first day of her campaigning. Why are they not talking about a lead of 40,000 votes and plus, which obtained by PML-N in both 2008 and 2013? This is a massive margin. What else can I comment on this issue? It just makes me laugh. The polling days is not far. In fact, there is no contest at all. It is just like buying bread from a confectionary for us."

 Dr Yasmin Rashid is daughter-in-law of former PPP Education Minister Malik Ghulam Nabi (late) and sister-in-law (brother’s wife) of Shahid Nabi Malik, who had lost against Ishaq Dar in 1993.

Though Shahid had moved court against Ishaq Dar, his long-time neighbour at Mozang Road, Justice Malik Qayuum, had ruled against him.