Lahore: Senior Pakistan People's Party leader Yousuf Raza Gilani's son today won a bye-election to the parliamentary seat in Punjab province that fell vacant when the former premier was disqualified by the Supreme Court last month.
Gilani's son Abdul Qadir Gilani won in the family's traditional stronghold of Multan by bagging 64,628 votes, according to unofficial results flashed by the state-run media.
His closest rival, Shaukat Bosan, an independent candidate backed by parties like the PML-N and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, secured 60,532 votes in the closely contested bye-poll.
Observers said the victory was significant as it came in the wake of the former premier's conviction and disqualification by the apex court for refusing to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari as well as growing disenchantment with the PPP-led government at the centre following widespread allegations of corruption.
However, they pointed out that Gilani's son had won by a margin of just over 4,000 votes – an indication of the support extended to Bosan by "anti-PPP forces" like the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf led by Imran Khan and the PML-N, which rules Punjab.
"Today the people gave their verdict. They have given a befitting reply to those who had sent my father packing. The anti-democratic forces should now stop conspiring against the PPP as it still the most popular party of the country," Abdul Qadir Gilani told PTI.
During a three-week campaign, the Gilanis targeted the judiciary more than other political parties. Abdul Qadir said: "The people today have made it clear that they did not like its (judiciary's) decisions."
PPP insiders were of the view that today's bye-poll was more a contest between the PPP and the superior judiciary led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and right wing parties.
No other mainstream political party had fielded a candidate against Gilani's son but all of them, including the PML-N and religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami, supported Bosan, the brother of senior Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Sikandar Bosan.
Bosan’s election billboards and posters prominently features photos of Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan – evidence of the support he enjoyed from these leaders.
"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 PTI.
Though Imran Khan announced that he would not forge an alliance with any other party, observers said the PML-N and Tehrik-e-Insaf were virtually in an alliance for the bye-poll.
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 bye-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 Chaudhry had delayed the 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 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.