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August 28, 2015

Split opinion in PML-N on repolling issue

National

August 28, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) faced a split opinion in its high level consultative session on the question of going for fresh polls or otherwise to the two National Assembly constituencies where its MPs have been unseated by election tribunals and took a majority decision in favour of competing for these seats.
One set of participants of the meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was of the view that unnecessary political hype would be created by preferring new elections.
It was stressed that such a buildup will suit the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which wants to create such an atmosphere. It was also emphasised that the government’s development agenda would be affected by such jockeying.
However, others opined that it was the opportune time for the PML-N to reply to the PTI campaign that claims that it is very popular. They said that the PML-N was in a comfortable position to win the elections to NA-122 and NA-154 seats. It was argued that the fresh elections would moderate the campaign being built by the PTI.
The decision on holding polls to NA-125 will be taken later. It was pointed out in the meeting that the PTI is likely to announce staying away from the by-elections, putting up the precondition of removal of the four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
This is the only escape route for it. However, the government has no plan to join voice with the PTI for the exit of the ECP members.
Obviously, the by-elections will be a test of popularity of both the PML-N and PTI. The PML-N will see how far its policies have appealed the people at large while the PTI will taste the impact of its sit-in and other political activities. But both parties will run the risk of unpredictable results. For the PML-N, it will be a big gamble. However, Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid exuded confidence to retain the Lahore and Lodhran seats in the by-polls.
If the PTI decides to jump in the

electoral fray, Jehangir Tareen will certainly be the party’s candidate in Lodhran. At present, the PML-N nominee in NA-154 is not known.
It may again field Rafiuddin Bokhari, who had stood third in the 2013 general elections by securing 45,634 votes (as against 86,177 ballots of winner Siddique Baloch) and who is not disqualified. Tareen had bagged 75,955 votes and stood second.
However, the big decision will be that of PTI Chairman Imran Khan whether or not to vie for NA-122 where he was defeated by Ayaz Sadiq in 2013. Because of his clout, the PTI chief will become a formidable contestant against Ayaz Sadiq, who will be surely nominated by the PML-N. However, any other PTI representative, who will be fielded, will not have that much bright prospects like that of Imran Khan.
Imran Khan is not required to vacate his NA-54 Rawalpindi seat prior to competing for NA-122. Under clause 4 of Article 223 of the Constitution, if a member of the Senate or national or a provincial assembly becomes a candidate for a second seat, he may not hold concurrently with his first seat, and his first seat shall become vacant as soon as he is elected to the second seat.
By going for the fresh polls, the PML-N wants to release the tremendous pressure that it has faced after the unseating of its three MPs by the election tribunals in a short span in a row. These rulings no doubt served as a great morale booster for the PTI.
In the presence of the same members, the ECP had organised the local council elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the subsequent re-polling in nearly 400 polling stations. The recent by-election to NA-19 Haripur were undisputed and impartial. Although the PTI had squarely put the blame of massive faux pas and mismanagement in the KP local elections on the ECP, which the electoral body had strongly rebutted, it had not specifically accused the ECP members of any partisanship and partiality.
Similarly, the PTI has also not objected to the members’ continuation during the forthcoming local council polls in Punjab and Sindh for which the schedule was announced on Wednesday. Additionally, it had not hurled any allegations on the ECP members during hearings in the three-member judicial commission or demanded their ouster for having rigged the elections.