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October 26, 2015

LG election campaign picks up in Lahore

Lahore

October 26, 2015

LAHORE
With Local Government elections round the corner, electioneering has picked up in the provincial capital where people will exercise their vote right on October 31 in 274 Union Councils of Lahore.
After the last general elections, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have emerged as two main opponents in LG arena as well while PPP, once a mainstream party of Punjab whose birthplace was Lahore, seems to have vanished completely from most of the areas falling in rural parts of the provincial metropolis. Pakistan Muslim League-N, the ruling party of Punjab and centre seems dominant in most of the parts of the city but at the same time, it is also under a testing phase as in number of areas, candidates belonging to the same party have come face to face. Irregularities in voters list has also added to the trouble of most of the candidates, particularly, contesting for the six wards falling under a UC as there are number of examples in which most of the voters mentioned in the list are not even the residents of the city of Lahore. Besides, most of the candidates, including Khwaja Ahmed Hassan, Javed Iqbal Khan, Abdul Rasheed Mengora Wala and several others contesting on UC or wards have also been elected unopposed after either no body filed nominations against them or the nomination papers of the opponents were rejected due to the complicated voters list.
Like the last by-poll of NA-122 held in Lahore, once again blatant violation of the Election Commissions code of conduct was continued in the provincial capital, whether it was related with massive publicity campaigns, spending money on voters or development work. Candidates contesting from Opposition parties, particularly, PTI is vehemently criticising the ruling party for using public money for attracting voters. “Where have they been for last seven years, the PML-N assumed power in Punjab in 2008 and no attention was paid to address their woes, now seeing a clear-cut defeat,

they have started to utilise state funds on public which was ignored completely for last many years” said Zulfiqar Ahmed, a candidate of PTI contesting from Union Council 27. In his area, and many other adjoining Union Councils, development work such as laying of sewage, water supply lines, sanitation have geared up, according to the opponents.
In different areas of Lahore, candidates belonging to Opposition parties have also installed banners rebuking government backed candidates for repairing an already repaired road just to garner public support.
Besides, on Sunday, which was the last official holiday before the LG polls scheduled on October 31, the candidates belonging to different parties took out rally for show of power and areas, including Shadbagh, Misri Shah, Tezab Ahata, Garhi Shahu, Icchara, Samanabad have really become centre of political activities and very strong contests are expected in these areas.
In Union Council 45 falling under NA-119 and PP-141, two groups of PML-N have come face to face and according to sources, both enjoyed secret backing of two local MPAs of the ruling party. In the said seat, PML-N has awarded ticket to Kashif Hussein Gohar, who is a businessman belonging to Urdu Bazaar and has been a staunch party loyalist. However, what has raised several eyebrows in party cadres is the awarding of ticket of his Vice-Chairman to Munib Tufail, a former labour councillor of PML-Q in 2001 and 2005 as well as a major campaigner of Pervez Musharraf during his referendum of 2002. Munib has been a staunch PML-Q loyalist till the last LG polls and by 2010, he joined PML-N. Annoyed with the decision, Ismael Butt, alias Manna Butt, a PML-N loyalist and winner in 2001 and 2005 polls have fielded himself as independent candidate for the slot of Chairman and Iftikhar Butt, his colleague in the same UC in 2001 and 2005 is contesting as his Vice-Chairman.
In this Union Council, local people believe that it is now a contest between Arains and Kashmiri clans as both sides are putting full weight to defeat other. One group, according to sources is backed by Provincial Minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman while the other is backed by Ghazali Salim Butt, both sitting MPAs of PML-N. However, they deny the reports.
Moreover, fierce election battles are also expected in different parts of Lahore. One such example is Union Council 25 where PML-N has fielded Shahnawaz and PTI has come up with Bilal Butt. From the same seat which covers areas, including villages like Bhamma, Jhuggian, Haji Park, Taj Ghazi Park etc is likely to see a tough contest and local people don’t rule out any untoward incident on the polling day. Malik Abdul Rauf, a former Councillor of 1991 Local Government polls is also contesting from the same seat as Independent candidates.
In the 2015 Local Government polls, election symbols had also caught attention of the people as other than party symbols like Tiger, Bat, Arrow, independent candidates have been awarded symbols such as diamond, batsman, bucket. Candidates are also allotted symbols such as bear, parrot etc.
Since 1979, it is for the eighth time that LG polls are being held in Punjab. Under dictatorial rules of Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf, fives time LG polls had taken place in the years 1979, 1983, 1987, 2001 and 2005.
Under a civilian government, it is third time that LG polls are being held as previously polls were held in 1991, 1998, both while Muslim League was in power.