The Upcoming NA-120 elections scheduled for September 17 are dubbed as the most important by elections. The results of this highly contested national assembly seat, which was left vacant by the former PM is said to determine the PML-N Standing in Punjab post-verdict.
In a recent article Nadeem Paracha describes the NA-120, Lahore III constituency as ‘urban’ with most of its inhabitants consisting of businessmen, trades and other white collar workers. The literacy rate of the constituency is over 80%. Another noteworthy fact about the constituency is that it houses a significant Shia population- who in 2013 largely voted in favour of PTI. The results of the 2013 elections also indicate that -the constituency-despite being a PML-N stronghold enabled Dr Yasmin Rashid of PTI to bag 52,354 votes against Nawaz Sharif -who at the time, bagged 91,666 votes. However, with Sharif gone, many speculate that the balance may tip in favour of Dr Yasmin- who is yet again the PTI nominee for NA-120.
Furthermore, the PML-N is struggling to keep its affairs in orders. After endless rumours and speculations, the party finally announced the former first lady Kulsoom Nawaz as the nominee for the seat. The decision was instantly challenged by key opposition parties such as PPP and PTI on grounds of lack of financial disclosures in her nomination papers.
Soon after, a 17 year old mysterious treason case against the first lady resurfaced- which alleges her along with some others of attempting to instigate rebellion against some state institutions. The case is said to be under review, but the Lahore High Court on the 21st of August rejected the appeals filed against Kulsoom Nawaz’s nomination papers, clearing the passage for her to contest in the elections.
However, this celebratory news was also short-lived. The PML-N candidate had to be rushed out of the country following the unfortunate news of ailment. Some reports claim that even though Kulsoom Nawaz will be unable to campaign herself, she will be back a week before the elections. Many remain doubtful of her timely return. The PML-N officially claims that no alternative nominee has been selected, but certain recent events have birthed the speculations of Maryam Nawaz being positioned to run for NA-120.
Since the departure of Kulsoom Nawaz, a couple of high level party meetings took place to discuss the NA-120 situation. Reports of one such meeting that occurred last week claimed that Nawaz Sharif delegated the election campaign responsibility to senator Pervaiz Malik alongside Maryam Nawaz, while releasing Hamza Shahbaz from the campaign management duties- who had been the main authority for all by elections contested by PML-N in Punjab formerly. Following the incident, Hamza Shahbaz left the country. Even though, Hamza and Maryam along with the PML-N spokesmen are trying to dispel the notions of any rifts. But, many believe that the move by Nawaz was essentially aimed at denying Hamza space to further consolidate his power in Punjab.
Nonetheless, the present situation emanates itself as a contest between succession of accountability or of legacy. It is yet to be seen if the opposition can amass adequate support this time around or if hearts will pour out in favour of Maryam Nawaz.