Sunday Dec 05 2021
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NA-133 Lahore by-election: PML-N defeats PPP to retain seat in stronghold, unofficial results show

PML-N candidate Shaista Pervaiz Malik. — Facebook
PML-N candidate Shaista Pervaiz Malik. — Facebook
  • PML-N defeats PPP to continue reign in NA-133; PTI fell out of race earlier.
  • Voter participation was low at 18.59% versus 51.89% seen in 2018.
  • Day largely uneventful save for a PML-N, PPP face off on two occasions, reports of a voter capturing a photo inside a polling station.

LAHORE: PML-N's Shaista Pervaiz Malik on Sunday won the NA-133 constituency, enabling her party to retain the seat in a constituency that has long been the party's stronghold.

Unofficial, preliminary results showed Malik defeated PPP opponent Aslam Gill by a margin of 14,498 votes, according to the unofficial results, securing 46,811 votes, versus Gill's 32,313.

She succeeded her late husband Malik Pervaiz whose death left the NA-133 seat vacant.

The PML-N has won the seat for the fourth time since 2008, although by a smaller margin this time around, as compared to when the party won it in the 2018 elections.

In 2018, Pervaiz Malik secured 89,699 votes, which means PML-N got 42,888 fewer votes this time.

PPP's Gill, however, got 26,728 more votes now as compared to the 2018 polls, when he obtained only 5,585.

PTI's Aijaz Chaudhry won 77,293 votes in the 2018 general elections.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif dedicated the victory to the late Malik, describing him as a "thorough gentleman, dedicated public servant and great companion of (party supremo) Nawaz Sharif".

"Grateful to NA 133 for their unwavering trust," he added.

PPP President Asif Ali Zardari, too, congratulated workers over the party's "splendid results".

"The efforts put in by Peoples Party Central Punjab's leadership, its team, and workers have borne fruit," the PPP quoted Zardari as saying.

Zardari congratulated PPP Central Punjab President Raja Pervez Ashraf.

"The Lahore by-poll has proved to be a turning point for Peoples Party," Zardari said.

The PPP president said that the party has been "born again" in Lahore which will prove to be the impetus needed to bring change in Punjab.

PML-N's Ali Pervaiz Malik, while noting that his party ran a "robust" campaign in Lahore, was unmoved in his resolve to continue to question PPP's improved performance in the province.

"Raja Pervaiz Ashraf distributed money among people," he alleged, referring to a video that surfaced in the run up to the election which appeared to show voters being "bought" and an oath being obtained from them.

The PML-N had cried foul and accused PPP of employing such tactics to "ruin" the election.

"What have the Peoples Party done that their votes have risen from 5,000 to 30,000?" Malik asked.

He said that his party is getting the footage forensically analysed and await the results.

PML-N's early celebration

Celebrations broke out in the PML-N camp even as results for at least 10 polling stations were not in.

A statement was issued by the party on Twitter, quoting Shahbaz as congratulating all the workers.

"I also congratulate the winning candidate Shaista Pervaiz Malk," the statement quoted Shahbaz as saying.

"The PML-N has proved in every by-election that it is the most popular party (in the country)," Shahbaz said.

The PML-N president said that the people are "looking to PML-N" to solve all the crises that have befallen them.

"The people will no longer fall prey to mere talk, claims and slogans. They only demand performance now," he said.

Party vice president Maryam Nawaz also posted a triumphant message in Punjabi, saying: "Once more....the lion (wins). Alhamdulillah."

The prime minister's aide on political communication Shahbaz Gill had predicted as much, tweeting earlier to say that PML-N is vying for the seat "alone" and "in the evening they will celebrate victory in the race that they ran in alone".

"With such a low voter turnout, it is clear that in a contest where (PM Imran) Khan's party is not in the running, the public have no interest. The people have recognised these thieves for what they are," he said.

Low voter turnout

Polling for the constituency started at 8am this morning and continued till 5pm without any break after which the gates to the polling stations were closed off to any more voters.

According to Geo News, akin to the chilly weather in Lahore, the voter response to the by-poll in this period remained rather 'cool'.

Polling stations saw a vote or two cast in the morning hours which increased to a few more by the afternoon. When time began to draw close for polling to end, voter participation improved slightly.

Statistics from the 2018 polls show voter participation for the constituency to have been 51.89%, whereas this time for the by-poll, it was 18.59%.

PTI 'will vote for no one'

PTI Central Punjab President Ijaz Chaudhry, in a conversation with Geo News, said that since his party has no candidate in the field, "we will not vote for anyone".

"Today's election is a black spot in the name of the electoral process," he said.

He claimed that less than 20% of the total votes will be cast.

"We have appealed to party voters to stay at home and not exercise their right to vote today," he said.

Later, in a statement on Twitter, Senator Faisal Javed Khan said if PTI had been in the race, "voters would have thronged to the polling stations".

"Being out of the race on a technicality is unfortunate," he remarked.

He said that the spirit and enthusiasm displayed by PTI workers is always commendable.

"With a lack of interest shown by people, the situation the PML-N and PPP are in is obvious," the PTI senator said.

Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry followed by saying that the low voter participation "proves" that the PML-N and PPP "cannot win the war even on an empty battlefield".

"Even after all the propaganda, PTI is the only real player, without which the field lies barren," he said.

'PPP only party that can alleviate people's suffering'

PPP President Punjab Raja Pervez Ashraf, in a message to the people of the constituency on the occasion, said: "Allah has given NA-133 voters a chance to decide their own destiny".

"PPP is the only party that can alleviate the sufferings of the people,"  Ashraf said.

"Only PPP can end inflation, unemployment, lawlessness, uncertainty," he added.

PML-N says people 'must not be fooled by talk'

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, in an appeal to voters, said that they should turn up in droves to cast their vote.

"The people with the power of their vote should stand tall and become an obstacle in the way of inflation, economic devastation and unemployment," the official PML-N Twitter account quoted him as saying.

"The people must not be fooled by talk, claims, and slogans; they must vote by performance," he said.

Shahbaz said that "under the leadership of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N is the only party that can provide relief to the country and its people".

"I appeal to the people to come out of their homes from every nook and corner and play their role in bringing a change," he said.

The PML-N president instructed party leaders and workers to remain active in facilitating voters at polling stations.

As the day progressed, news emerged that PML-N has set up a monitoring cell in the party secretariat in Model Town.

"The polling and general situation in the constituency is being monitored moment by moment," Uzma Bukhari said.

The monitoring cell will continue its work till the announcement of the election results, she said.

Elaborate food preparations

Elaborate food preparations were made for lunch at some polling stations, with candidates serving food such as biryani, chana pulao (chickpea rice), chicken roast, zarda (sweet rice loaded with dry fruits), kheer (rice and milk-based sweet dish), and custard.

DRO takes notice of voter capturing a photo

The day, despite being largely unremarkable was not entirely uneventful. The District Returning Officer took notice of a voter taking a picture from his mobile phone inside the polling stations.

Orders were issued to the concerned authorities to immediately identify the said voter.

"Voters will be detained and action will be taken according to the law," the DRO said.

"Make sure voters do not bring mobile phones to polling stations," he added.

All Presiding Officers should strictly follow the instructions, the Returning Officer said.

PML-N, PPP workers engage in verbal altercations

Moreover, PML-N and PPP workers got into verbal altercations on two reported occasions, with one incident culminating in physical blows being exchanged.

Workers from both parties chanted slogans against each other at the Bagrian Green Town polling station.

In Maryam Colony Block No.1, what began as sloganeering against one another, turned into a scuffle between the workers and a bitter exchange of words. The police and Rangers reached the spot to control the situation.

Brief overview of the NA-133 constituency

The NA-133 seat fell vacant after the death of PML-N MNA Pervaiz Malik who died of heart complications on October 11.

According to the Punjab election commission, there are 254 polling stations in the constituency, including 22 polling stations of A category, 198 of B category and 34 polling stations of C category.

Of these, 199 polling stations were declared sensitive. Around 200 separate polling stations were set up for men and women and 54 mixed polling stations were also set up.

The total number of voters in the NA-133 constituency is 440,485, of which 233,585 are male voters and 206,927 female voters.

Candidates in the race

There were 11 candidates contesting the polls, including PML-N's Malik, and PPP's Gill.

The PPP actively campaigned for the NA-133 by-election in Lahore in the hopes of reviving the party in Punjab.

The PML-N has retained the seat thrice in the past with Pervaiz Malik winning it in 2018 with 89,699 votes, Waheed Alam Khan in 2013 with over 100,000 votes and Naseer Bhutta in 2008 with a margin of over 32,000 votes.

After the Election Commission of Pakistan rejected the nomination papers of PTI candidate Jamshed Iqbal Cheema and his covering candidate, his wife Mussarat Cheema, no PTI candidate was in the race.

Election arrangements

Meanwhile, clear instructions were given by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to all polling staff regarding the way the polls are to be conducted.

Ballot papers and other polling material were handed over to the presiding officers at the polling stations under the supervision of police and Rangers.

Presiding officers were paid Rs6,000 each for a full day's duty while assistant presiding officers and polling officers were given Rs4,000 each.

The ECP directed each presiding officer to get snapshots of the original Form 45 along with forensic details showing time and location and hand it over to the returning officer. The commission asked presiding officers to keep their location service on, take a picture of Form 45 and WhatsApp it to returning officers by taking polling agents on board.

In case of non-availability of internet, the presiding officer was told to personally hand over the original Form 45 to the returning officer.

The ECP urged all presiding officers to save relevant details in their computer. Presiding officers were to receive polling bags from the returning officer under the guard of police and Rangers.

The ECP also asked each candidate to ensure proper training of their polling agents. Candidates were told to ensure that no polling agent leaves a polling station without receiving Form 45. Each presiding officer was bound to provide a signed copy of Form 45 to relevant polling agents at the polling station.

CEC Sultan Raja satisfied over arrangements

Earlier in the day, Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja inspected the distribution of polling material and expressed satisfaction over the arrangements.

CEC Raja said that all arrangements, including security, are complete. He urged voters of the constituency to exercise their right to vote.

The election commission said it assigned security duties to law enforcement agencies, including police and Rangers.

Security officials standing alert outside a polling station to avoid any untoward situation during by-elections of the NA-133 constituency, in Lahore, on December 5, 2021. — APP photo by Ashraf Chaudhry
Security officials standing alert outside a polling station to avoid any untoward situation during by-elections of the NA-133 constituency, in Lahore, on December 5, 2021. — APP photo by Ashraf Chaudhry

Control rooms

The ECP said it established a control room in the office of the returning officer, which would continue working throughout the polling process until results are compiled.

The ECP also established separate control rooms at provincial and central levels to register and resolve complaints. The control room was to work from 7am in the morning till the compilation of results on polling day.

The provincial control room could be contacted through the following live contacts: Lahore: 042 99212209; 042 99212620; Fax: 042 99212209; Email: [email protected]

The central control room could be contacted on phone 051-9204402; Fax no 051-9204404 for registering complaints. The complaints could also be registered through Email:- [email protected]

A deputy commissioner and officers of police and Rangers were to remain present to deal with any untoward incident.

The ECP also expressed hope that the voters would strictly follow the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).