Unforeseen alliances, internal dissent feature prominently in by-polls


PESHAWAR: The lines between left and right and religious and secular parties have blurred ahead of the by-polls. Political forces cut unexpected alliances while internal wrangling over allocation of party tickets has split the vote banks of other popular candidates. Here’s a look at the provincial and national assembly constituencies where by-polls will be held today.

NA-1

Peshawar-I

The contest for the coveted National Assembly seat took an interesting turn when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) revoked the membership of its dissident leader Samad Mursaleen, who decided to compete by-polls independently after the party awarded the ticket to Gul Bacha.

ANP stalwart Ghulam Ahmad Bilour is another favourite for the seat. And though Mursaleen has announced he will “gift” the seat to PTI chief Imran Khan if he wins, the move could split the party’s vote bank and serve as an advantage for Bilour.

Adviser to the chief minister on relief settlement and transport, Yasin Khan Khalil told The Express Tribune though the seat was won by Imran Khan in the general polls, ANP cannot be ruled out this time around. “The seat is of importance to workers of both parties, but it is our (PTI’s) right to retain the constituency,” said Khalil, adding people have not forgotten the flawed policies of ANP.

Khalil said the seat was initially offered to Mursaleen, but he refused to contest the by-polls. “Later, Imran committed to Bacha and allotted him the ticket,” he said, claiming Mursaleen is dictated by a handful of dissidents. Khalil, however, was optimistic Mursaleen’s move will not have a detrimental effect on PTI’s performance in the polls. Meanwhile, Bilour has accused PTI of employing the state machinery to obtain votes.

NA-13

Swabi-II

K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser vacated the seat in favour of his provincial assembly victory in the general polls. He initially tried to give the ticket for the by-polls to his brother Waheedullah, but after complaints from PTI workers decided to give it to his younger brother Aqibullah.

Around 10 contestants are fighting for the seat including Jannat Party’s Ourang Sher, independents Muhammad Ayaz, Shamsul Qamar, Ishaq Ahmad, Muhammad Kalim, Umer Gul, Attaullah Shah and JUI-F’s Attaul Haq Darvesh.

In a seat agreement between JUI-F, ANP and PML-N, the parties chose Attaul Haq while QWP, PTI and JI along with the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Party (AJIP) decided to support PTI’s Aqibullah. Though the JI seemed to be peeved with its tussle with the PTI over the Zakat chairman seat, they agreed to support PTI’s candidate. On the other hand, PML-N chose not to field its most suitable candidate, Haji Sajjad, at the eleventh hour and was instructed by the party’s central leadership to support JUI-F’s contestant.

Both sides are campaigning enthusiastically for their chosen candidate. PTI enjoys support of the youth, but ANP has a strong vote bank and its support for JUI-F’s candidate could be a crucial deciding factor.

NA-25

DI Khan-cum-Tank

Election postponed

PK-27

Mardan

Slain MPA Imran Mohmand’s brother Jamshed Khan has emerged as a strong candidate with support from ANP, PML-N, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), PPP and QWP. According to Jamshed, all the parties have decided not to field their own candidate in his favour.

Interestingly, Jamshed’s rival JUI-F candidate Zakaullah also claims he is being supported by ANP, PML-N and PPP. Senior leader of JUI-F, Maulana Qasim refused to contest the polls over differences with former MNA Maulana Shujaul Mulk.

Zakaullah told The Express Tribune JUI-F’s silent majority will vote in his favour. However, insiders refuted the claim, saying they will not vote for Zakaullah despite support announced by Maulana Qasim. PTI will support JI’s candidate Fazal Rabbani as per a reported agreement between the two.

NA-5

Nowshera

Located around 36 kilometers east of Peshawar, Nowshera is the third district in Peshawar division. Former president of Awami National Party (ANP) Muhammad Ajmal Khattak, former interior minister and PPP leader Naseerullah Khan Babar, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Maulana Samiul Haq who leads Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S) are some of the prominent political names of this district.

Though the death of JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad created a huge vacuum in Nowshera’s political landscape, it was later filled by PTI workers who also secured JI’s vote bank.

Three ANP candidates – the late Ajmal Khattak, Wali Muhammad Khan and Masood Abbas Khattak – have won the NA-5 seat in the past four elections.

In the upcoming by-polls, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) have selected ANP’s Daud Khattak as their joint candidate while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), JI and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) have chosen former tehsil nazim and son-in-law of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chief minister, Dr Imran Khattak.

After the seat was vacated by K-P Chief Minister (CM) Pervez Khattak, PTI has been rallying hard for their chosen candidate. Though the ANP and PPP have a large vote bank in the district, being the family member of the K-P CM and having a specific vote bank in the constituency has strengthened Imran’s position. Moreover, most people are still blaming the former government of ANP for their woes.

NA-27

Lakki Marwat

The electoral scenario of Lakki Marwat changed considerably after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) decided to not field a candidate and lend support to JUI-F instead.

The seat was won by a Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) candidate in 2002, by PML-Q in 2008 and by JUI-F in 2013. Though PPP’s Saifullah brothers have a huge vote bank in the area, they have decided not to take part in the by-polls. The family’s votes are now likely to be divided among JUI-F and PTI.

Some say the Saifullah brothers will not cast their vote in favour of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s brother Maulana Attaur Rehman and have thus decided to support PTI’s candidate Colonel (retd) Amirullah. PML-N leader Akhtar Munir, on the other hand, has decided to support JUI-F.

JUI-F has a stronger chance of emerging victorious due to reports of internal dissent in the PTI. Three candidates applied for the party ticket, but only Amirullah was given the go-ahead.

PK-42

Hangu

The late Farid Khan was elected as an independent from PK-42, but later decided to join the PTI government in K-P. After his unfortunate demise in an attack by unidentified assailants, Farid’s brother Shah Faisal decided to contest the by-polls.

Shah’s decision to compete has dimmed the chances of former MPA Attiqur Rahman emerging successful with support from JUI-F. Rahman was also arrested over accusations of plotting Farid’s murder.

Presently, 10 candidates have submitted applications to contest from the constituency, but the actual contest will be among three prominent candidates.

Though competing as an independent, Shah Faisal enjoys support of ANP, PML-N and PTI supporters. JUI-F along with pro-government Taliban leader Nabi Hanif is vying for Maulana Zahir Shah. The third prominent candidate is Syed Hussain, who is being supported by Shias in the area. JUI-F earlier gave the ticket to Mian Hussain Jalali, who withdrew from the race on Monday. Shah Faisal is currently considered to be the strongest candidate and expected to secure sympathy votes.

PK-23

Mardan

Three candidates are contesting for PK-23 which was vacated by former chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti. Hoti is popular in the constituency as he has initiated many development schemes in the fields of health, education, business and infrastructure.

In the by-polls, a tough contest is expected between candidates of PTI and ANP. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) workers, meanwhile, are facing internal wrangling that is likely to bring forth detrimental results.

Internal differences exacerbated when the JUI-F entered into an agreement with ANP over provincial seats. JUI-F leaders expressed concern over the alliance but finally decided to withdraw from the race.

ANP stalwart from the district and former MPA Ahmad Khan Bahadur, Syed Umer Farooq of the PTI and JUI-S leader Ikramullah Shahid will go head-to-head in the by-polls. PPP withdrew its candidate in favour of ANP.

PK-70

Bannu

Former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani vacated the seat, choosing to retain his place in the National Assembly. JUI-F has now started campaigning for Akram Khan Durrani’s cousin Azam Khan Durrani. Of the 10 contesting candidates, Azam Khan is the strongest contender. PTI’s Malik Adnan Khan, independent contestant Mumrez Khan and QWP’s Faridullah are also trying to somehow emerge victorious. Mumrez is a dissident leader of the PTI who formed his own faction and decided to compete as an independent, splitting the party’s vote bank.

Malik Adnan Khan’s uncle Malik Nisar Khan belongs to the PML-N but is supporting his nephew and has also reportedly been asking PML-N supporters to vote for Adnan. PML-N district general secretary, on the other hand, has vowed to support JUI-F.

QWP, which is a coalition partner of the PTI in the K-P government, has fielded its own candidate.

Additional reporting from  Muhammad Shoaib, Ghulam Akbar, Manan Adil, Baseer Qalandar, Jehanzeb Khattak and Kamran Khan

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2013.