By-election NA-48: PTI likely to challenge PML-N to the finish line

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Aug 22, 2013.

Islamabad – The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is likely to challenge the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the federal capital a second time around as voters in Islamabad’s NA-48 head to the by-polls on Thursday.

In the May 11 general elections, PTI candidate Javed Hashmi had upset the PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel Khan, who was on a re-election bid, by a margin of around 21,000 votes. Hashmi vacated the seat in favour of the seat he won from his hometown, Multan.

The PTI’s Asad Umar is expected to go head-to-head with PML-N’s Ashraf Gujjar in the August 22 by-elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) decided to test Faisal Sakhi Butt’s mettle again. Butt had finished in fourth place with 9,178 votes in the general elections. Third-place Mian Aslam, of Jamaat-e Islami, withdrew from the by-elections race.

The Jamiat Ulema-e Islam, Pakistan Peoples Party (Shaheed Bhutto), Pakistan Freedom Party and Pakistan Justice Party have also fielded candidates. But a majority of the contesting candidates — 15, to be precise — are independents. However, J Salik, who received 5,038 votes from NA-48 voters on May 11, the highest for an independent candidate in the two Islamabad constituencies, is not contesting the by-polls.

The city’s mostly urban NA-48 constituency has a total of 293,525 registered voters, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Around 59.5 per cent of those voters had showed up at the polling stations to pick their elected representative on Election Day. The turnout is not expected to reach the general elections-level, indicated by a mostly unenthusiastic campaign period.

The PTI is banking on the youth and women vote that helped its candidate to victory in NA-48 around three months ago. Around 47 per cent of the constituency’s total voters are female.

Half-Working Day

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced a half-working day for the offices of Federal Government in the entire Islamabad district except the offices of the District Administration including Police Department to facilitate government servants in casting their ballots.

Security Arrangements

Islamabad Police will deploy 2,234 police personnel outside polling stations in NA-48 in Islamabad. Sixteen Quick Response Force (QRF) teams of Rangers have been also constituted for polling day security duties. Around 100 traffic cops have been assigned special duties for the by-polls.

Out of a total 260 polling stations, the District Election Commissioner has notified three highly sensitive and 35 sensitive polling stations in the constituency. The ECP has requested army to be deployed at highly sensitive polling stations and outside sensitive polling stations.

Islamabad has been in the eye of the storm since the start of August. The city was put on high security alert before Eid due to a potential terrorist threat. On Eid Day, a suicide bomber got in to a Shia mosque on the capital’s outskirts, but fortunately his suicide vest malfunctioned. On August 15, a gunman drew the city’s police into a five-hour long stand-off just two kilometers away from the red zone.

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