Lahore: Thousands of people on Thursday braved the summer heat to vote in by-polls to the parliamentary seat in Pakistan`s Punjab province that fell vacant after former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by the Supreme Court last month.
The ruling Pakistan People`s Party sees the by-polls in Multan as a contest between itself and the judiciary and right wing parties, PPP insiders said.
The PPP has fielded Abdul Qadir Gilani, one of the former premier`s sons, and no other mainstream party has put up a candidate.
However, all other parties, including Nawaz Sharif`s PML-N, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan`s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami, are supporting independent candidate Shaukat Bosan. He is the brother of senior Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Sikandar Bosan.
"We are supporting Bosan as we want him and his brother to join the PML-N and contest on our party`s platform," PML-N spokesman Pervaiz Rashid told a news agency.
He contended that the Bosan family had the support of some 40,000 voters and that Shaukat Bosan would win the by-election with the backing of the PML-N`s 20,000 voters.
Sikandar Bosan claimed the Tehrik-e-Insaf was not supporting his brother.
"As our family has a political backing in the constituency, we don`t need anyone`s support," he said.
However, he said that the brothers did "not mind if other parties are supporting us".
Though Imran Khan has announced that he will not forge an alliance with any other party, observers said the PML-N and Tehrik-e-Insaf were virtually in an alliance for the by-polls.
On the other hand, senior PPP leader Haider Zaman Qureshi said all anti-PPP forces had joined hands to defeat Gilani`s son.
"On top of that, the judiciary has a stake in this by-election. It is trying to ensure that the PPP loses this seat, otherwise there will be a curse all around on the judiciary for disqualifying Yousuf Raza Gilani," he said.
Qureshi alleged this was the reason why Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had delayed swearing in new Chief Election Commissioner Fakharuddin G Ebrahim and sent acting CEC Justice Shakirullah Jan, a serving judge of the apex court, to the constituency to oversee a "game plan" to defeat Abdul Qadir Gilani.
He contended that the acting CEC had ensured that voters` lists were not provided to candidates so that they could not make arrangements to transport voters to polling stations.
Under the new rules, candidates cannot directly provide transport to the voters.
Qureshi said the turnout was not high because of this reason.
"The Election Commission is supposed to provide them with transport but it has only a few vehicles at its disposal," he said.
The PML-N government in Punjab too was using state ministry to influence the polls, he alleged.