LAHORE: Dr Yasmin Rashid is becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of as September 17 nears, even for the press. The only way to catch her is in the middle of one of her door-to-door campaigns, as she counts on increased personal contact with voters to make the difference in the final days of campaigning.
“Pre-poll rigging is a big concern,” she told Pakistan Today, as she sat on the front seat of her SUV, on a short drive in Islampura and Sandha, just after she mixed with people in UC-65 and headed for Chauburji (UC-67).
“We have done all we can – approached the election commission, etc – but nothing has been done. So we’ve decided to concentrate on the campaign and let the people decide, even though we are at a disadvantage to start with.”
Critics have long blamed PML-N for using official machinery in election campaigns. This time, too, the official paraphernalia surrounding Maryam Nawaz is in stark contrast to Dr Yasmin Rashid’s small entourage – two SUVs and one police mobile, with no visible firearms.
“We were not interested in this either,” she said. “But PML-N ghundas were giving us a rough time, so there’s just one mobile.”
So far, there have been five alleged incidents of PML-N harassment of PTI workers in the door-to-door campaigns. Yet, despite approaching the police each time, only one FIR was registered, when a PML-N worker dragged a PTI lady worker by her hair in front of Masjid-e-Shuhada.
Matter of survival
Public reaction to her campaign, according to her, is much stronger this time than ’13. It’s not just that Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified “and exposed”, but also because PML-N has very little to show in this constituency as far as public works is concerned, despite its long hold on power.
“This area’s biggest problem is lack of clean water,” she stressed, lamenting how the common man in the former prime minister’s constituency struggles for life’s basic necessities.
“For people here, it’s a matter of basic survival.”
The second most immediate concern is sanitation. Puddles of sewage on broken roads are a common sight across NA-120 – except areas where the government is busy carpetting roads since the election was announced.
PTI’s manifesto resonates louder with the people now, she says, than before. They have seen far too many times how the ruling party ignores them between elections. The few roads that are now being made, too, were given no attention throughout the electoral cycle.
Resentment against Nawaz
“That is why I believe I can win,” she said confidently, adding that “people know now that PML-N will not solve their problems.”
Her association with NA-120 goes back to her years of service at Lady Wellington and Sir Ganga Ram hospitals, where she worked as a gynecologist, and Temple Road (UC-68), where she settled after her marriage.
And even though she’s no longer a resident of NA-120, just like other major contestants, she’s long had a natural feel for the pulse of this constituency. And she’s noticing a change now.
“There’s a lot of resentment against Nawaz Sharif,” she observed. “People are beginning to see his politics does not concern them; it concerns targetting institutions for his own political survival.”
She’s confident PML-N’s repeated attacks on the judiciary are going to prove counterproductive.
“The judiciary is the custodian of the constitution. It is because Parliament fails – which, in turn, is a failure of the politicians – that the law has to step in,” she said.
But what of the mindset that is not responsive to on-ground facts or changing realities? Much of NA-120 has always been assured PML-N vote regardless of the broken roads or contaminated water.
“Indeed, one of the biggest challenges remains fighting off the mindset of this area,” she admitted. “But we’re working on it.”
Additional reporting by Hassaan Ahmed