Lahore: Pakistan's Tehrik-e-Insaf party led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, which had been making waves, has suffered a setback as people in Punjab province largely ignored its call to boycott by-polls held over the weekend to seven seats of national and provincial assemblies.
Leaders of the PML-N, which rules the province of 90 million people, were relieved by the turnout in the by-polls as the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf had emerged as a major threat to in recent months by organising a string of massive rallies.
There has been a lot of excitement in the PML-N camp while the leaders of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf have decided to sit together in the coming days to analyse what went wrong with their call to boycott the by-polls on 25 February.
The PML-N believes the Tehrik-e-Insaf's departure from its "principled stand" of not accepting leaders linked to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in its folds was the main factor behind the change of heart among the people.
"Why should we not be happy over the results? There were tall claims from the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf that people would not come out of their houses to vote in the by-polls but the phenomenal turnout shows the people are not ready to be fooled," PML-N spokesman Pervaiz Rashid said.
The people had rejected Imran Khan's call to boycott the by-polls, he said and added "Mr Khan should now understand people's message – do the politics of principles. The turnout proved the reality of Mr Khan's tsunami. It is in the air and now we do not have to prove this."
He further said the people had expressed their disdain for all those who had defected from their parent parties and joined the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
"See the turnout, especially in the constituencies of Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali, Jehangir Tareen and Javed Hashmi.
"The people came out of their houses to reject the politics of these politicians," Rashid said.
The people rejected Imran Khan's politics when he started deviating from his principled stance of bringing in new faces to his party, Rashid contended.
"Now he should do charity work and give suggestions to improve cricket infrastructure in the country," he said.
Pakistan People's Party parliamentarian Waqar Ahmed Khan said the major political parties had mobilised their voters in the face of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's call to boycott the hustings.
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Omar Sarfraz Cheema claimed electoral rolls with "45 percent fake" voters were the reason for the high turnout in the by-polls.
"High turnout is not a big deal if the state machinery is at the candidates' disposal," he claimed.
Cheema cited Musharraf's referendum of 2002 in which there was a 96 percent turnout.
"In fact both the PPP and PML-N had made seat adjustments and the elections were a mere formality," he said.