Lahore Seen as Critical in Pakistan's Election

By SUMEERA RIAZ, written for  |  May 10, 2013 at 2:19 PM
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LAHORE, Pakistan, May 10 (UPI Next) -- Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and Pakistan's second-largest city, is expected to be a key battleground between the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the centrist Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf in Saturday's planned elections.

Thirteen of the National Assembly's 272 general seats come from Lahore, and the city exerts great political influence in the rest of Punjab province, a province which accounts for 148 of those seats.

Lahore has been home to several well-known Pakistani political figures who later became prime minister or held other senior positions, including Pakistan Peoples Party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his daughter Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's Nawaz Sharif, who is running this year, are all former prime ministers who won elections Lahore.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the first prominent political figure from Lahore after winning a seat in the 1970 elections. He became prime minister in 1973 was deposed in a coup. His daughter, Benazir Bhutto, won her father's old seat in 1988.

Sharif is running for a seat from Lahore. He last contested a National Assembly election from Lahore in 1997.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf founder, Lahore-born Imran Khan, will also run from his home city, against incumbent Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The seat the two are running for has historically been a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stronghold. Sadiq has held it since 2002, when he defeated Khan with more than double Khan's votes.

The conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has been dominant in Lahore for more than a decade, but the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, the electoral wing of the Pakistan Peoples Party and religious party Jamaat-e-Islami are mounting serious competition this year.

Speaking to UPI Next, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf candidate Farooq Amjad Mir said he was confident of change in Lahore, predicting "a drastic change in Lahore's politics, as our party is more popular among the youth."

Likewise, the Pakistan People's Party claims that it has fielded strong candidates who can dent the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vote in Lahore. Bushra Aitzaz, one of those candidates, told UPI Next that the party is confident about its chances in Lahore.

Although it "has not been able to get roots in politics in the previous elections," she said, this time, the party "has come up with a more viable strategy to secure most of the seats in Lahore." Rasul Bakhsh Rais, political and social sciences lecturer at Lahore University, told UPI Next that there will be a tough contest between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.

"The PML-N, which has been the most popular party in the province, with Lahore as its stronghold, does not seem to be in a comfortable position, as the PTI is gaining more and more support at grassroots levels and is likely to dent the PML-N seriously in the upcoming elections," he said.

Political analyst Hasan Askari has a different view. "Though PTI is getting popular in the city, it won't be able to bag more than one or two seats. Lahore has been the stronghold of the PML-N and the party will retain its position in Lahore," he said.

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