Stage is all set for by-polls in NA-149, Multan being held today. Neck on neck contest is being expected between Javed Hashmi and Amir Dogar. Hashmi is contesting the by-polls as independent candidate after saying goodbye to PTI. According to reports 285 polling stations and 770 polling booths have been set up for the polling. 105 polling stations have been declared sensitive by law enforcement agencies. Hashmi, the former PTI President, would not be casting his vote since it’s registered in another constituency, NA-148.
Javed Hashmi contested the 2008 polls as PML-N candidate while he emerged victorious in 2013 general elections on PTI ticket. Amir Dogar who had won the polls on PPP ticket has been running as independent candidate. Pakistan Peoples Party has also fielded its candidate Javed Siddiqui who has very little chances to win the polls.
The stakes are high as both the “Independent candidates” are unofficially being backed by the two major parties i.e. PML-N, and PTI. Javed Hashmi had been approached by the PML-N local leaders who offered him party support in the bye-polls. Amir Dogar, who had won the elections on PPP tickets earlier, now is fully backed by PTI.
People are terming the NA- 149 bye-polls very crucial as it would decide the popularity of the ruling party and PTI in days to come. Both PML-N and PTI are making hectic efforts to muster up support for their unofficial candidates. The bye-polling in NA- 149 has become controversial even before the announcement of the date for polling. Javed Hashmi has won the 2013 polls on the ticket of PTI with 83,000 votes appeared to be strongest candidate due to due to his political career and the sacrifices rendered by him for the cause of democracy. But political observer have expressed reservations about the outcome of the NA- 149 bye-polls arguing that due to ongoing political confrontation between the PML-N and PTI, one can not predict who is going to emerge victorious from the constituency.
The incumbent government which is already in trouble due to charges of alleged rigging in 2013 general elections seems to have not learned the lesson from the ongoing protest. The government should have remained impartial to ensure fair and transparent elections. But the ruling party is making same mistake by openly siding with Javed Hashmi. The unofficial support of PML-N can cause damage to Javed Hashmi to some extent. Amir Dogar silently enjoying the support of PTI and poses a serious threat to Hashmi this time.
The violation of code of conduct was witnessed Wednesday as pamphlets were dropped by the helicopters in favour of Javed Hshmi a day after expiry of electoral campaign deadline. The election commission has taken a serious notice of the violation and directed its officials to look into the matter. This move can be dangerous for Javed Hashmi as if found guilty; it would not only cost him his seat but might also face minimum six month imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10, 000.
While Javed Hashmi reportedly told the media that airdropping of pamphlets was not a part of his election campaign and it was only advertisement as the same pamphlet has been published in the newspapers Wednesday. Hashmi has also tried to clarify that one of his supporter named Azhar Baloch booked a helicopter from Multan Flying Club to drop pamphlets. Javed Hashmi has also told media that he would not maintain his seat as an independent candidate and would decided which party he would join after winning the bye-polls. He is likely to rejoin the PML-N as he has written in his ‘will’ that his body would be draped in Muslim League flag before being laid to rest.
Amir Dogar has been seen attending PTI’s rally in Multan sending a silent but clear message to the masses that Dogar is unofficial candidate of the party. The situation is very confusing. The polling agents were witnessed Wednesday carrying matter related to bye-polls on bikes, taxis and private cars without any escort by the police or rangers. The election commission which hired dozens of vehicles to shift the polling materials to respective polling stations under the supervision of police and rangers, failed to utilize the vehicles. ECP only came to action when the footage were started appearing on electronic media showing polling materials being shifted in sheer violation of he guidelines set up by the election commission.
It is an open secret that the ruling party PML-N is running the campaign of ‘independent’ candidate Javed Hashmi. The role of election commission is very important to ensure fair, transparent bye-poll in NA- 149 as whosoever win or lose would definitely hold the election commission responsible for ignoring the violations as witnessed on the expiry of deadline. The results would have far-reaching on the country’s political arena .The government should remain impartial during the entire process which is vital for its survival in the future.