PTI’s Barrister Sultan Mahmood defeats PML-N candidate in Mirpur by-election: unofficial results

November 24, 2019

In a nerve-racking fight, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, regional president of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), defeated Chaudhry Sohaib Saeed of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in a by-election in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Sunday, officials said.

According to unofficial results from 119 polling stations in LA-III, Mirpur-3, the 64-year-old veteran bagged 17,617 votes against 14,819 clinched by his 33-year-old rival, a novice in politics.

PTI's Barrister Sultan Mahmood casting his vote in Sunday's by-polls in Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. — Photo by author
PTI’s Barrister Sultan Mahmood casting his vote in Sunday’s by-polls in Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. — Photo by author

“Today’s result has smashed the tall claims of the PML-N government regarding development and governance in the state,” remarked Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, PTI’s central joint secretary and former AJK minister, while speaking to Dawn from Mahmood’s election office amid celebrations.

“It has also set the stage for our victory in the next general elections,” he claimed.

According to the ballot paper, there were 14 candidates in the fray but the real contest was between the PTI and PML-N nominees.

The PPP had also thrown its weight behind the PML-N under an “agreement” between the leadership of both parties, whereby they had resolved to support any candidate from the same party that had clinched victory there in the general elections.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) had also announced its support for the PML-N candidate.

There were reports that some PPP activists had either remained aloof or had supported the PTI leader. Similarly, the PML-N had to suspend the basic membership of at least five of its local leaders for announcing their support to Mahmood.

LA-III, Mirpur-3 comprises the municipal as well as some of the peripheral areas of the lakeside city of Mirpur, with 59,494 registered voters — 32,490 of them men and the rest women.

However, the voter turnout was low, according to officials.

The government had taken extraordinary measures to ensure a violence free atmosphere by dividing the constituency into 8 zones and 20 sectors and deploying as many as 2,719 police personnel to maintain law and order.

According to witnesses, except for a few incidents of verbal brawling, the polling process that began at about 8am and concluded at 5pm remained peaceful by and large.

The constituency was rendered without a representative after the ruling PML-N lawmaker and cabinet member Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed was disqualified by the AJK Supreme Court.

Saeed, who is a former president of Pakistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was tried by a division bench after a Mirpur resident filed an application last year, alleging that he had encroached upon the state land which “amounted to contempt of a previous apex court judgment.”

Though the minister had placed himself at the mercy of the court from day one by tendering an unconditional apology and surrendering the allegedly encroached land, his mercy pleas were turned down by the bench as untenable and he was sent packing on September 25 — a day after Mirpur was hit by an earthquake.

Sohaib is Saeed’s son and a former president of the Mirpur-based AJK Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Unlike Saeed and his son, Mahmood, a former prime minister at the head of the 1996-2001 PPP government in AJK, is a veteran of electoral politics.

Prior to Sunday’s by-election, LA-III, Mirpur-3 had gone through the voting process nine times since 1985 — eight times in general elections and once in a by-election.

Mahmood had remained successful in all but two of the previous polls. The only two times he lost were the general elections of 1991 and 2016.

In 2011, Mahmood was a PPP candidate in general elections. However, he had resigned from the assembly on February 4, 2015, a day before switching his loyalties to PTI.

He returned in the by-election held on March 29, 2015, as a PTI nominee, defeating Chaudhry Ashraf of the then ruling PPP who also enjoyed support of the PML-N.

With Mahmood’s victory in the by-poll, the strength of PTI in the 49-member AJK legislature has risen to three. The other two PTI lawmakers were elected in the general elections from the constituencies of Pakistan-based Kashmiri refugees.

Among the other opposition parties in AJK, PPP and Muslim Conference have four and three lawmakers respectively, while Jammu Kashmir Peoples Party has one and one is an independent lawmaker.

The ruling PML-N has 35 and its ally JI has two lawmakers.

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