Thu. Jun 1st, 2023

In these file photos, supporters of the PML-N and PTI can be seen waving the flags of their respective parties during separate rallies. — Reuters
  • Punjab to see intense political activity take place today.
  • 20 Punjab Assembly seats are up for grabs in by-elections.
  • Govt warns PTI against disrupting peace in by-polls.
  • PTI claims govt to break “all records of rigging elections”.

Punjab will witness intense political activity today (Sunday) as the make-or-break by-elections on 20 hotly-contested provincial constituencies will take place — that will decide who will become the next chief minister of the province.

The 20 seats fell vacant after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) unseated 25 PTI dissident lawmakers on May 23 — which included five lawmakers elected on reserved seats for women and minorities — for voting against PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz in the Punjab chief minister’s election.

Political pundits are expecting a tough contest between PML-N and PTI in the by-polls as a majority of the 20 defecting PTI MPAs have hitched their wagons to the PML-N.

The PTI and the PML-N have around the same number of seats in the Punjab Assembly, but if either of the parties takes a major lead in the by-polls, it can form the next government easily as the elections for the chief minister are also slated for July 22.

It is important to mention here that of all the by-elections held in Punjab from 2018 to 2021, the PML-N won a majority even when the PTI was in power. Out of the 29 national and provincial constituencies which were up for grabs in Punjab, the PML-N remained successful in 14 while the PTI won 10.

In the 2018 general elections, of the 20 MPAs who won the polls, 10 contested as independent candidates and later joined the PTI due to the efforts of businessman and politician Jahangir Khan Tareen.

However, PTI has charged up and motivated voters, who are sold on Imran Khan’s foreign conspiracy narrative. These voters could give a tough time to the PML-N in constituencies that fall in urban areas by turning up in large numbers on election day.

Read more: PTI, PML-N gear up for July 17 Punjab by-polls as election campaigns end at midnight

The election campaign ended at 12am Saturday in line with the polling rules, with PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz and PTI Chairman Imran Khan campaigning vigorously for their parties.

During the campaign, Khan reiterated his claims of a foreign conspiracy that led to his government’s ouster and asked his supporters to ensure that in the by-polls, the “thieves and corrupt” do not win.

“They will break all the records of rigging the elections,” the PTI chairman said in an address to a jalsa yesterday, rallying his party workers and supporters against the government.

Therefore, in light of the statements and political tensions ahead of the by-polls, the government has decided to deploy Frontier Constabulary (FC) in addition to rangers.

The government has also decided to impose a ban on the movement of the armed workers of any political party in the constituencies where the by-polls are being held.

In a statement on Twitter, Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah Khan warned the PTI leadership to exercise restraint and avoid disrupting the peaceful proceedings of by-elections.

Read more: Imran Khan, PTI should refrain from inciting riots tomorrow, Rana Sanaullah warns

The ECP, in a statement, said it has also set up special control rooms at central and provincial levels for monitoring, which will “promptly resolve” election-related complaints.

The numbers game

The by-elections will take place on PP-7, PP-83, PP-90, PP-97, PP-125, PP-127, PP-140, PP-158, PP-167, PP-168, PP-170, PP-202, PP-217, PP-224, PP-228, PP-237, PP-272, PP-273, PP-282 Layyah, and PP-288.

The Punjab Assembly has a total of 371 members, of which 20 seats are vacant at the moment, bringing the total number of MPAs in the Punjab Assembly down to 351.

The ruling PML-N has 163 members. On the other side is the Opposition, therefore the PTI, which is 163 MPAs strong at the moment.

In the house, there are five independents, of which Chaudhry Nisar, the former interior minister, is unlikely to vote. While the PPP has 7 MPAs, PML-Q has 10, and the Rah-e-Haq party has one.

  • Government — 175 (PML-N 163, PPP 7, Rah-e-Haq 1, independent 4)
  • Opposition — 173 (PTI 163 and PML-Q 10)

As per the rules of the Punjab Assembly, the chief minister is elected with a simple majority, therefore 186 votes out of the 371-seat assembly.

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