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TLP to play decisive role in Punjab by-polls

All major political, religious parties seek alliance with the Brelvi-Sunni organization which stuck to its decision to go solo in elections

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is confident to give a surprise in Punjab by-polls after the Karachi election where it lost with a margin of mere 65 votes.

The polling on 20 provincial assembly seats in 14 districts of Punjab is scheduled to be held on July 17.

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The TLP has so far issued tickets to six candidates – one each in Rawalpindi and Sheikhupura and four in Lahore.

A total 47 candidates had applied for the party tickets on these six tickets, TLP spokesperson Saddam Hussain told Minute Mirror on Saturday.

The TLP, he said, will field candidates on all 20 seats, he added, ruling out the option of alliance with any major political party who eagerly approached the party for support.

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Declared as outlaw in 2020 due to violent protests on different religion related demands including the call for expelling the French ambassador on Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) caricature row, the former government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lifted the ban on the far-right Brelvi organization under political pressure, enabling the party to participate in elections.

Major opposition parties (the PML-N and the PPP) had then criticized the PTI decision. But they later rushed to the TLP headquarters (based in Lahore) for alliance.

In addition to the PTI, the PML-N and the PPP, the religious parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal also approached TLP for coalition.

“PPP’s Nasir Ali Shah visited the TLP with a message of Asif Zardari. PTI’s Ijaz Chaudhry met Rizvi and expressed desire for alliance. PML-N’s MNA Imran Shah and MPA Khawaja Imran Nazir also went to the TLP headquarters in Lahore with the same wish,” sources said.

The TLP emerged as the fourth largest single party of Pakistan in terms of number of votes in general elections of 2018 and it was the third largest in Lahore following the PML-N and the PTI. But it could win only two provincial assembly seats from Karachi where its candidate lost the Thursday’s by-poll on national assembly seat with a thing margin.

The results surprised the political commentators and boosted the morale of the TLP leadership.

Debate on the TLP’s future role remained a hot topic on social media during the last 24-hours. Analysts believe the TLP will be a decisive factor not only in Punjab by-poll but also in the next national vote.

Karachi’s NA-240 is considered as citadel of the Muttahida Qaudmi Movement Pakistan. The left-wing party, however, could retain the seat with the thin margin of mere 65 votes against the TLP candidate. As per unofficial results of NA-240, the TLP candidate Shahzada Shehbaz secured 10,618 votes against MQM-P’s Muhammad Abu Bakar who bagged 10,683 votes in violence marred polls.

TLP head Saad Rizvi declared the election as rigged and raised the question on the impartiality of the Election Commission of Pakistan. He said he will expose the rigging, vowing not to sit silent on theft of his party mandate. He also announced to challenge the results.

“We know secular forces are a hurdle in our way and they don’t want to see us in assembly. But masses are with us,” he said.

A political science professor of Punjab University said the TLP success in the polls seemed difficult. But it will certainly play a critical role in defeat and success of the candidates of main political forces of Punjab – the PML-N and the PPP – in the elections, he said and requested anonymity. He said the TLP enjoyed support of 10,000 to 15,000 voters in almost every constituency of Punjab and these numbers were enough to shift the balance in favour of any main candidate. Karachi, he added, had also appeared a major support base of the party, throwing a challenge to traditional rivals (the MQM, the PTI and the PPP) to tackle the situation. Since the TLP, he said, had been vigorously building anti-Imran narrative for last few months as compared to other two parties (the PPP and the PML-N), it would definitely create problems for the PTI in general elections and by-polls of Punjab.

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