PML-N’s Shakil trounces Sheikh Rashid
By Inamullah Khattak
RAWALPINDI: The PML-N retained its supremacy in Rawalpindi on Wednesday when its candidate Shakil Awan defeated six-time winner and a minister in the Musharraf regime Sheikh Rashid Ahmed by a margin of over 20,000 votes to clinch the National Assembly’s NA-55 seat.
According to an Election Commission official, Mr Awan secured 63,888 votes and Mr Ahmed polled 42,530. The by-election evoked interest all over the country with people watching live TV coverage for almost the whole day.
Soon after announcement of unofficial results, PML-N workers and activists thronged the streets of the city to celebrate their victory, with some of them firing in the air.
The seat fell vacant last year when PML-N’s Haji Pervaiz had to resign after a proxy was caught sitting in his place in a college exam.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif also reached the city late in the night and addressed the enthusiastic workers, felicitating them on the victory.
There were 22 candidates in the run, but as expected the real contest was between Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid and Pakistan Muslim League-N’s Shakil Awan.
The voters’ enthusiasm in the by-election made it like a general election. In the June 2008 by-election, the turnout was just 11 per cent whereas the estimated turnout on Wednesday was over 35 per cent which is considered to be quite high for a by-election.
Sheikh Rashid held two press conferences — one in the morning and the other after losing the election — alleging that state machinery was used by the Punjab government to change the result.
He said the local administration and police played a partisan role and his supporters and polling agents were intimidated.
A large number of police and Rangers personnel were deployed at sensitive polling stations on the demand of Sheikh Rashid who had escaped a murder attempt earlier this month in which his three guards were killed.
A few incidents of scuffle between workers of PML-N and Sheikh Rashid were reported from some parts of the city, but overall the polling was peaceful.
The candidates of Pakistan Tekrik-i-Insaaf and Jamaat-i-Islami — Ejaz Khan Jazi and Dr Kamal — suffered crushing defeats and received only about four per cent of the votes cast.