PTI trounces PML-N in Punjab by-polls

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Crushes ruling party in home ground; Wins 15 seats, PML-N could get 4, Independent one

Amraiz Khan
Lahore

Celebrations in the PTI camp were in full swing on Sunday night as preliminary, unofficial results in the by-election on 20 constituencies of Punjab, showed the party has decimated its rival, the PML-N, in the contest.

According to the unofficial final count, the PTI won 15 seats, while the PML-N managed to clinch victory in only four, and an independent candidate grabbed one. Currently, the PTI has a razor-thin edge over PML-N in the fight for PP 7 Rawalpindi II.

As per unofficial, unconfirmed results and initial trend of the results of Punjab by-polls on the 20 vacant seats of the provincial assembly PTI is close to winning around 15 seats after a neck and neck contest with ruling Pakistan Muslim League PML (N).

Different top leaders of the ruling PML-N including former Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Malik Ahmad Khan have accepted the defeat with open heart.

Soon after getting the results, PML-N supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif has also made telephonic contact with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif from London and advised him to call the party meeting tomorrow (Monday) to make future strategies. PM Shehbaz has summoned the party session on Monday.

According to the results, PTI candidates Sardar Saifuddin Khosa from Dera Ghazi Khan, Zain Qureshi from Multan, Mian Akram Usman from Lahore, Khurram Shehzad Virk from Sheikhupura and Ghulam Sarwar from Sahiwal have won elections while Zaheer Abbas Khokhar and Shabbir Gujar from Lahore, Mian Azam Cheela from Jhang, Khurram Shehzad from Sheikhupura, Amir Iqbal Shah from Lodhran are also in a clear position to win.

While the ruling Nawaz League is getting a lead on only three seats including the seat of Asad Khokhar from Lahore, Tahir Randhawa from Layyah and Fida Hussain from Bahawalnagar.

PTI’s other candidates including Nawaz Bharwana from Jhang, Hassan Aslam Awan from Khushab, Irfan Ullah Niazi from Bhakkar, Ali Afzal Sahi from Faisalabad, Mian Akram Usman from Lahore, Moazam Jatoi from Muzaffargarh, Yasir Arafat Jatoi from Muzaffargarh and Col (R) Shabbir Awan from Rawalpindi have also a good lead over the opponents.

According to the unofficial and unauthentic results, PTI candidate Sardar Saifuddin Khosa has won the seat from PP-288 Dera Ghazi Khan against PML-N candidate Abdul Qadir Khosa. PTI candidate Saif received a total of 59760 votes while the PML-N candidate Abdul Qadir Khosa obtained only 34701 votes.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also issued the results through the RMS and confirmed that PTI candidates Mian Akram Usman, Zain Qureshi, and Shabbir Gujar have won the elections.

The ECP said in RMS that the turnout in the by-polls in constituency PP-217 Multan was 42 per cent.

The unofficial and unverified initial results from all 20 constituencies received by the 24News HD TV channel are as under:

PTI’s Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, son of former foreign minister and party vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, defeated PML-N’s Muhammad Salman in PP-217 Multan VII.

The Form 47 — the consolidated return to the Election Commission of Pakistan of a constituency’s provisional results — showed that Qureshi secured 47,349 votes as against Salman, who bagged 40,429. The party also emerged victorious in PP-288 Dera Ghazi Khan IV, PP-202 Sahiwal VII, PP-83 Khushab II, PP-140 Sheikhupura VI, PP-282 Layyah III, PP-224 Lodhran I, PP-158 Lahore XV, PP-167 Lahore XXIV, and PP-170 Lahore XXVII.

It wasn’t a clean sweep for PTI in Lahore, however, with PML-N winning the PP-168 Lahore XXV constituency.

Meanwhile, an independent candidate, Syed Muhammad Rafi ud Din, won PP-228 Lodhran V, with 45,020 votes as against PTI candidate Izzat Javaid Khan, who bagged 38,338.

According to details, Imran Khan’s party is in the clear lead on 16 constituencies. The polling continued till 5pm in most districts with Section 144 implemented to establish law aorder in the province on Sunday.

Thanking its voters and supporters, the PTI on its official Twitter handle said, “Shukriya Pakistan, the fascist imported government has been defeated!”

As per media reports, PTI candidate Zain Qureshi managed to win in Multan’s PP-217 constituency, according to unofficial results.

Son of former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi prevailed over PML-N’s Mohammad Salman. Zain bagged 47,252, while Salman got 40,203.

In PP-288 Dera Ghazi Khan, PTI’s Sardar Mohammad Saifuddin emerged victorious with 58,885 votes whereas his rival PML-N’s Abdul Qadir Khan could only manage 32,907 vote s.

While instructing his party representatives on duty in all polling stations, PTI chairman Imran Khan has asked them “not to leave their posts till official results have been obtained from the Returning Officers”.

PTI candidate Major (retd) Mohammad Ghulam Sarwar defeated his rival PML-N’s Noman Langriyan from PP-202 Sahiwal.

Sarwar grabbed 61,989 votes while Noman could get 59,167.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has established 3,131 poll ing stations in these 20 constituencies, out of which 676 have been declared highly sensitive and 1,194 sensitive.

Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan had accused the Punjab government of using the state machinery to rig the by-elections on 20 provincial assembly seats while calling upon the courts to “open now and act”.

In a tweet from his official handle earlier, Imran said the provincial government led by CM Hamza Shehbaz “brazenly” violated Supreme Court orders and election rules “by openly using all govt/State machinery to rig Punjab elections through illegal ballot stamping & harassing voters while arresting PTI ldrs[leaders]”.

“Through it all ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan] turned a blind eye. Courts must open now & act,” he maintained. In another tweet, the ex-premier condemned the arrest of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill. “[I] strongly condemn Illegal arrest of Shahbaz Gill simply to try & rig elections & spread fear in people.”

Meanwhile, an alleged leaked audio clip of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has gone viral on social media in which he could be heard discussing about some shady transaction made to disgruntled PML-N leader Jaleel Ahmed Sharaqpuri.

Development comes a day after the ruling PML-N lost two key provincial assembly seats when two of their MPAs — Faisal Khan Niazi and Mian Jaleel Ahmed Sharaqpuri – tendered their resignations ahead of crucial Punjab by-polls.

Reacting to the development, Rashid confirmed the authenticity of the audio clip saying government officials were tapping his phone calls. “It is my voice and I was just joking about the [payment].”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has alleged that police and local administration instigated an attack on the former information minister Fawad Chaudhry’s vehicle amid Lahore by-election.

PTI Central Punjab Information Secretary Musarat Jamshed told the media that Fawad, along with former finance minister Shaukat Tareen, was visiting polling stations to inspect the polling process in PP-168 when his vehicle was attacked by some miscreant, who was later arrested from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) Pakistan camp.

She alleged that police had played the role of spectator and provided protection to attackers who broke the windshields of Fawad’s vehicle. However, the PTI leader remained safe during the attack, she added.

Jamshed underscored that it is a matter of concern that the PTI’s central leader was attacked in the presence of heavy police deployment.

A heavy contingent of police arrived in Muzaffargarh’s PP-272 allegedly to arrest PTI leader Shahbaz Gill. In a tweet, the party stalwart said: “I am not afraid of arrest. Imran Khan’s soldier is not afraid of such tactics. We did not come to do terrorism, I am ready to be arrested.”

PTI Chairman Imran Khan and senior leader Shireen Mazari have strongly condemned the arrest terming it a “fascist act”.

Some unpleasant incidents have also been reported as polling continues. According to the commission’s spokesperson, the Election Commission Control Room received six complaints related to fights between voters and political workers, out of which three were resolved immediately, and that “authorities are taking steps to control the situation”.

CEC Sikander Sultan Raja said in a statement that “strict action will be taken” against “those involved in creating issues in the election process” and that if candidates participate in such acts “they may also be disqualified”.

A fight is reported to have broken out between political workers at the polling station of Panjar in Rawalpindi.

Home Minister and Spokesperson for the Punjab government Attaullah Tarar has also taken notice of a dispute that broke out in PP-158 Lahore. He said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and Saeed Mahis had seriously injured a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) worker as he issued orders for the PTI leaders’ arrests.

Police also arrested PTI worker Rana Naeem for causing a head injury to a PML-N worker at an irrigation canal polling station.

In the same constituency, a fight broke out between PTI and PML-N workers at the UC Dharmapura polling station. The PTI polling agent accused the police of bias and said that “the police is allowing PML-N workers to enter, while I am being stopped despite the fact that I am a polling agent,” as he explained why the brawl had broken out.

Voters in the same constituency complained of voting area alterations. Saqleen and Yasir Mehmood, residents of Nai Abadi Garhi Shahu, said that “I am a PTI supporter, our vote has been changed. Our vote was shifted to Shalimar PP-148 area where polling is not taking place.” He also alleged that the votes of all PTI voters in constituency PP-158 were shifted to PP-148.

Polling was also halted in PP-168 for some time following agitation between PTI and PML-N workers.

PTI’s candidate Malik Nawaz Awan also visited the polling station as reports of voters being prevented from entering polling station 60 surfaced.

An armed person identified as Abdul Rehman has also been arrested in front of the Basti Syedan Shah polling station of Lahore. The accused is reportedly a private guard of a local citizen named Dr Maarif and a mini-rifle was recovered from his possession. Khawaja Saad Rafique has accused the PTI of attempting “to stop polling by inciting violence, spreading fear and firing”. In a tweet, the PML-N leader claimed that “PTI’s armed goons” had been “arrested along with ammunition” in Lahore today.

Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Shahbaz Gill has alleged that attempts to rig the election were underway as “police clearly acts as a PML-N wing”.

He also claimed that the councilor in the PTI camp had been “threatened and then arrested” as he shared a video of the incident.

In another tweet he claimed that the ECP was complacent in the attempts to hijack the election as he alleged: “four million voters were [falsely] recorded dead [and] the names from voter lists were added to other constituencies”.

He further accused the electoral watchdog of altering voter lists “if there is a name [on the list], it is not allowed to vote”.

Rejecting the PTI leader’s claims, the ECP said that the “CEC has issued clear directives to Chief Secretary Punjab and IG Punjab that no retaliatory action should be taken against any civilians or ordinary persons otherwise the ECP will take strict action.”

He had also ordered, “all possible measures to be taken to ensure transparent polling in Punjab”.

It is important to note that PTI had raised concerns over voting lists’ alterations earlier as well and the ECP had described the claims of changes in the voter lists of 20 Punjab Assembly constituencies as nothing but mere “propaganda” to deceive the people.

A spokesperson for the electoral watchdog in a statement had added that the by-polls were being held in accordance with the previous lists.

The ECP had issued the statement after PTI leaders and former federal ministers Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry, in several news conferences, had announced that they would challenge the pre-poll rigging in the by-elections through the induction of unknown voters into the lists.

The presiding officers barred the media from covering by-elections in PP-7 Kahuta, Rawalpindi.

Speaking to the media, the presiding officer of Government Secondary School Matore in Kahuta said that the media was not allowed to enter the stations because of “orders from above” but added that “Rawalpindi media representatives can come without their cameras”.

He also warned that “police will be called if media representatives attempt recording footage of the polling booth”.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to his official Twitter handle to remind voters of “the corruption, incompetence, economic destruction, facilitation and patronage of the mafia and the destruction created in the name of change during the 4 years of the dark era of Imran Niazi government.”

In a celebratory tone, the senior PTI leader, Fawad Chaudhry urged voters “not to wait” and “come out and vote”.

Meanwhile, PML-N leader and current finance minister, Miftah Ismail told Punjab to vote for PTI “if you are happy with the Buzdar government’s performance”.

Former premier and party chief Imran Khan also took to his official Twitter handle and said that he wants “all those, esp[ecially] our women, who have to still come out to cast their vote to do so as this is an election for Pakistan’s sovereignty & Haqeeqi Azadi.”

As the chief election commissioner (CEC) urged voters to “vote for their favourite candidates today” in a bid to “not only strengthen democracy but also bless Pakistan with stability”, he also directed law enforcement agencies to “not allow any violations of law or violent incidents”.

The CEC ordered law enforcement to “take immediate and strict action without discrimination” should any violations occur. He also issued directives that “if an incident occurs where the election commission is the competent authority, the case should be registered with the commission immediately.”

According to sources, following reports of a disagreement occurring between political workers in Rawalpindi, more police personnel were summoned to restore order in the constituency.

The results of the by-polls will be seen as a possible bellwether for Pakistan’s next general elections, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) engaged in heated canvassing for the 20 seats of the Punjab Assembly ahead of the elections.

These seats fell vacant after the ECP disqualified PTI dissident lawmakers due to former prime minister Imran Khan’s petition.

It is pertinent to note that a change of government in the province, which is now headed by Hamza Shehbaz had occurred due to PTI dissidents.

Although the polls seem too close to call, the stars seem nonetheless more aligned for the PML-N that is said to be sporting a fair shot while the PTI, despite finding a wider echo for its narrative, may have to face challenges in grabbing enough seats to gather up the reins of the province.

The PTI currently has 163 seats in the Punjab Assembly on paper. Among these, Deputy Speaker Muhammad Dost Muhammad Mazari is highly unlikely to vote in the party’s favour, bringing the total tally down to 162.

Combined with 10 seats of the PML-Q in the province, its total strength comes up to 172 (minus one).

Interestingly, the PML-Q is an ally of the PML-led government in the federal government.

The PML-N has a combined strength of 175 votes. The party lost two seats just hours before the polls after MPA Faisal Khan Niazi and Mian Jaleel Ahmed Sharaqpuri tendered their resignations. Otherwise, the PML-N with his would have had 177 seats. The situation has altered the previous number game.

The magic number to attain the chief minister’s slot is 186, which means that the PTI is 14 seats short and the PML-N 11

The election’s outcome serves as a popularity test for ousted prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan. Analysts had earlier remarked that the election gives the PTI chairman the chance to gauge how well his campaign raised popular support.

“If he wins, he will say ‘people are with me’ and increase pressure for fresh elections,” political commentator Hasan Askari told AFP. If he loses, “Khan will definitely call it a rigged election”, he added.

The former premier has drawn thousands to rallies across the country since being deposed, giving lengthy speeches claiming the coalition government was imposed on the country by a US-led conspiracy.

 

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