Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) NA-8 constituency has a rich history. During the 1985 polls, before the formation of Charsadda district, it was part of NA-2. After the district’s formation in 1988, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bacha Khan’s son, Abdul Wali Khan, won the election by a huge margin. Wali Khan was later defeated by Maulvi Hassan Jan of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) in 1990 and ousted from politics altogether. But, as luck would have it, Wali Khan’s son Asfandyar Wali won against JUI-F leader Maulana Gohar Shah and brought the ANP back to power in the region.
In 2002, the NA-8 constituency, comprising the two tehsils of Tangi and Shabqadar, was formed. It was in this constituency that Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) chief Aftab Ahmed Sherpao defeated ANP candidate Bashir Khan Umarzai during the 2008 general elections and became an MNA for the second time.
With the next elections scheduled for May, candidates for the constituency have been announced by most parties. The ANP has awarded a ticket to ex-MNA Taimur Khan while the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) pledged support for Sajjad Anwar Khan and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has chosen Wasifullah Khan to represent them against Sherpao. The JUI-F is still looking for a suitable candidate after ex-MPA Sheikh Muhammad Idrees declined to contest on the party’s ticket. Allying itself with the QWP may also be an option for the party. However, according to Faqeer Husian, a member of the QWP negotiating team in Charsadda, meetings took place with both the JUI-F and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) but no consensus was reached. Husain said an alliance with the JUI-F was unlikely but was optimistic the QWP could win in Charsadda anyway.
Sherpao has twice held the office of chief minister in K-P. He was also appointed a federal minister for water and power and is the brother of PPP founding member and ex-governor Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao. Aftab Sherpao remained the PPP’s provincial chief for some time, but later formed his own faction which came to be known as the QWP in 2012.
Ex-MNA Taimur Khan is the son of Dawood Khan and grandson of Abdul Akbar Khan. Khan is one of the province’s few feudal lords and owns thousands of acres of land. He has the support of the ANP, but is opposed by the Mohmand tribe and is involved in a land dispute with members of his family. Mohmand tribe member and ANP’s ex-Information Secretary Muhammad Khan, who resigned from his post but remained in the party, said he would vote for the ANP but would not try and convince others to do the same as many workers had reservations regarding the allocation of party tickets. He admitted the Mohmand tribe was split in its loyalties and maintained most of the tribe’s vote would go to Sherpao.
The PPP’s Wasifullah Khan is the son of Khan Mukarram Khan, who was the general secretary of the Muslim League in Ayub Khan’s time. Wasifullah claimed a strong lobby wanted him disqualified as he was a loyal PPP worker.
The PML-N represented by Sajjad Anwar Khan, the sole candidate from Shabqadar’s Khan family, does not possess a strong vote bank in the region as only 3,000 votes were secured by the party in the 2008 polls. Moreover, Anwar Khan has differences with fellow PML-N candidates Mushtaram Shah in PK-21 and Sajjad Aurakzai in PK-22.
The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has awarded a ticket to Maulvi Mustaghan, who is not half as popular as Idrees in the area. However, because he is a cleric he may be able to tap into Idrees’ vote bank if the JUI-F candidate does not contest this year. The JI also have the advantage of being given credit for aiding flood victims in 2010 with their Al-Khidmat Foundation.
Ex-district nazim Naseer Muhammad Khan has also filed nomination papers as an independent candidate. Naseer, who stood in the 2008 polls against Asfandyar Wali Khan for the NA-7 seat, is hoping to get a JI ticket if party leaders agree to withdraw Mustaghan as a candidate. Naseer has tried to disqualify Sherpao on Articles 62 and 63. If he succeeds, he may be a strong candidate as he is the son of Nisar Khan and brother of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) NA-7 candidate, Fazal Khan.
The PTI has awarded a ticket to Mohmand Anwar Taj Khan, who is new to electoral politics and has differences with the PTI’s PK-22 candidate, Arif Khan. There are many other candidates in the constituency, but the contest is likely to be between the ANP, QWP, JI and JUI-F. The balance of power may tip in Sherpao’s favour as no party has a candidate that can challenge his vast election experience.
Political activist Abid Shah said when JUI-F candidate Idrees withdrew, Sherpao was placed in a better position despite fears he may lose the election. A JUI-F insider claimed both the QWP and JUI-F had initially agreed to give Sherpao one National Assembly seat and one provincial assembly. However, after two JUI-F clerics refused to contest after an internal rift, Sherpao took advantage and demanded two National Assembly seats and four provincial assembly seats. Faqeer Husain maintained the QWP was observing the political scenario and had until April 7 to make a decision regarding the alliance.
The PK-22 elections were won by the late Muhammad Ali who defeated the ANP’s Maqsood Akhtar Khan.
The JUI-F had awarded a ticket to Vice Provincial Amir Syed Rahim Shah Bacha. However, the party leadership changed its decision and gave the ticket to ex-tehsil nazim Ashfaq Ahmed Khan. Around half of the party workers have filled nomination papers in the constituency and it is rumoured there is a rift within the party over ticket allocation.
The ANP has once again awarded a ticket to Maqsood Akhtar Khan. The QWP has supported Abdul Akbar Khan of Matta instead of the late Muhammad Ali’s family. The JI has chosen Qari Shafiullah, and Sajjad Ali Orakzai will be representing the PML-N. Here, the contest is likely to be between the JUI-F, QWP and ANP. Historically, this constituency has remained supportive of the ANP, but the party did pay little attention to the area while in power, choosing instead, to favour Charsadda. This is denied by ANP candidate Maqsood Akhtar Khan who claims the party generated employment for hundreds of people in police, education, and other offices.
The PK-20, PK-21 and PK-22 constituencies were won by the QWP in 2008. However, in the by-elections, ANP’s Taimur won the PK-20 seat. This time, the QWP has allotted a ticket to Mohmand Khalid Khan in PK-20, who was a runner-up in the by-elections as an independent. The JUI-F has given a party ticket to Mufti Gauhar who lost the 2008 election while the ANP has supported Khadim Shah Safi, a resident of Mohmand, to counter Khalid Mohmand. In this constituency, the Communist Mazdoor Kissan and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami parties also have a solid vote bank.
As for PK-21, QWP Provincial President and ex-MPA Sikandar Sherpao will contest against ANP leader and former special advisor to the chief minister, Syed Masoom Shah. In 2008, Sikandar had defeated Masoom here.
Fakhre Alam Khan, a journalist-turned-JUI-F leader, and PML-N’s Mushtaram Shah will also be contesting. Masoom has done a great deal for the welfare of the community during the past five years and will prove difficult to defeat for Sikandar. Journalist Fakhre Alam on the other hand has the support of Javed Khan’s family, who recently joined the JUI-F.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2013.