Following death threats issued by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Qaumi Watan Party activists in Fata have decided not to contest the upcoming polls under their party’s banner. Instead, they will now stand as independent candidates.
“All our activists in Fata are avoiding party tickets, due to Taliban threats,” said Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) President Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. “The party leaders who contest as independents, due to the fear of Taliban reprisal, will rejoin the QWP after winning elections.”
Sherpao, who has survived two suicide attacks in the past, cited the example of Asghar Wazir, a candidate for a National Assembly seat from South Waziristan, who returned his ticket after TTP intimidation.
He also clarified that QWP activists are only facing such threats in Fata, and not in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Awami National Party candidates have faced similar problems in Fata and K-P, according to its senior vice-president Haji Muhammad Adeel. However, he said that ANP’s leaders in that region have not refused the party ticket.
Adeel recalled how former ANP provincial legislator, Adnan Wazir from Bannu, faced threats, because of which he resigned from the party to contest for a provincial assembly seat as an independent. This strategy did not work and his election rally was attacked, with two killed and six injured, including Wazir. Subsequently, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a different vein, Election officers in North and South Waziristan revealed that not a single ANP candidate is contesting on the three national seats from both tribal agencies.
Furthermore, while two Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidates filed their nomination papers for two NA seats from South Waziristan, no one filed for the only NA seat from North Waziristan.
Former PPP provincial information secretary in K-P, Khawaja Yawar Naseer, echoed Adeel and said that although PPP candidates have also received threats, no one has yet refused a party ticket.
And yet, a PPP activist in the Khyber Agency said that one of the party’s leaders, Malik Waris Khan Afridi, is contesting for one out of two NA seats from Bara as an independent candidate.
“Afridi, a former PPP federal minister, did not even apply for a party ticket,” the source said.
“Now, there is no PPP candidate on any of the two NA seats from Khyber Agency.”
Unlike Afridi, ANP’s Malik Darya Khan has retained his party affiliation and is contesting for the NA seat from Landi Kotal on an ANP ticket. Darya is the son of the late Malik Nadir Khan Zakakhail, a well known tribal elder.
Adeel said that ANP candidates are now in a difficult position. They fear launching election campaigns in both Fata and K-P.
“As a party policy, our candidates will avoid holding of large public gatherings during our drive for voter mobilisation,” Adeel disclosed. “They will ask for votes through SMS, and also address the electorate through print and electronic media.”
In the Bajaur Agency, Gul Afzal is an ANP ticket holder for NA 44. According to a source, the party has decided not to award a ticket to any candidate from the second seat, Bajaur NA 43, due to a compromise with the provincial governor, whose father Malik Bismillah Khan is a potential candidate from the same constituency.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2013.