In a set-back to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Opposition alliance led by deposed premier Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N gained five more parliamentary seats in by-polls, reducing the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s margin in delicately balanced National Assembly.
Elections were held Sunday in nine National Assembly constituencies in Punjab and one each in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 24 provincial assemblies seats, including 11 in Punjab, nine in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two each in Sindh and Balochistan.
Most of the seats where by-polls were held had been vacated by those elected on more than one seat in the July 25 general elections, including Prime Minister Khan who won in all the five NA constituencies he had contested.
In by-polls, Khan’s party lost two seats vacated by him. His seat in Lahore (NA-131) was won by former railways minister and a firebrand Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Saad Rafique.
In Bannu, Zahid Akram Durrani of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) defeated the PTI candidate Naseem Ali Shah.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who had lost the July 25 elections from two constituencies, easily defeated PTI’s Ghulam Mohiuddin Dewan in NA-124 Lahore in an almost one-sided contest.
The PML-N and the PTI won four seats each of the National Assembly whereas Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid won two seats and MMA one seat, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said.
Now the opposition numbers have increased by five more seats in the National Assembly, while the ruling alliance secured six more seats.
The outcome of the by-election will not impact the federal or provincial government but help reinvigorate the opposition parties.
The PTI won 11 seats of the provincial assemblies while the PML-N won seven. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by former president Asif Ali Zardari, and Awami National Party won two each and independent candidates were elected on two seats.
The PML-N won six out of 11 contested seats in Punjab while its arch-rival PTI won five. The PML-N also won a provincial assembly seat in Khyber-Pakhtukhwa, which is the stronghold of the PTI.
Commenting on the results, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI would have won at least nine of the 11 NA seats had Prime Minister Khan led the campaign for by-elections.
Talking to a private TV channel, he said the top party leadership did not run the campaign due to the Election of Commission’s bar on them.
According to the Election Commission, 9.28 million voters were eligible to vote. For the first time, overseas Pakistanis also participated in the elections though a special online portal designed by the ECP.
Officials said 84 per cent registered overseas voters cast their vote in by-polls.
Thousands of army soldiers, police and paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Corps were deployed to provide security at 7,489 polling stations.
The ECP had designated as many as 1,727 polling stations as highly sensitive where extra troops were deployed and security cameras installed.