Complexities of electioneering aside, the upcoming polls will determine whether the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) will maintain their previous positions in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) central districts.
In 2008, the ANP remained dominant in the five central districts, including Peshawar, Charsadda, Swabi, Mardan and Nowshera by winning six out of 13 National Assembly and 21 out of 36 provincial assembly seats. The PPP, on the other hand, proved it was a superior political force in Mardan and Nowshera. The party succeeded on four National and nine provincial assembly seats.
This time on Election Day, the ANP and PPP will have to face candidates from three powerful parties. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) all have the potential to seize power from the coalition partners. Additionally, the former ruling parties are now facing hurdles in the form of targeted militant attacks, making the situation markedly different this time round. In addition to facing security concerns, the PPP has lost prominent politicians, including Yaseen Khalil, Pervez Khattak, Iqbal Hussain Khattak, Muazzam Hoti and Iftikhar Mohmand.
In Peshawar, the ANP’s NA-1 candidate Ghulam Bilour, PK-1 candidate Ghazanfar Bilour, and PK-3 candidate Barrister Haroon Bilour may have a sizeable bank due to sympathy votes in the wake of Bashir Bilour’s assassination.
In NA-2, influential PPP candidate Arbab Alamgir Khalil will face ANP candidates Arbab Najibullah and Arbab Tahir on National and provincial assembly seats respectively. Both Najibullah and Tahir are popular, but their strength is weakened by former ANP MPA Atifur Rahman, who is contesting both seats as an independent. Rahman’s revolt against the ANP’s parliamentary board decision regarding ticket allocation seems to have benefited the PPP candidate.
Differences in ANP ranks may also help PPP ticket holder Noor Alam Khan, who is contesting from NA-3. But Khan must also face strong opponents including PML-N’s Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, JUI-F’s Haji Ghulam Ali and PTI’s Sajid Nawaz.
The ANP seems to have a strong chance in NA-4 with Arbab Ayub Jan, who, apart from briefly losing in 2002, has held his provincial assembly seat since 1985. Now contesting for the National Assembly, Jan will face Gulzar Khan of the PTI, Arbab Kamal of the JUI-F, Nasir Musazai of the PML-N and Sabir Hussain Awan of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).
Charsadda, a previous stronghold of the ANP, may now prove difficult to win due to an alliance between the JUI-F and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP). In Charsadda, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan will contest against the JUI-F’s Maulana Gohar Shah, who is also supported by the QWP.
In Mardan, ex-federal minister Khawaja Mohammad Khan Hoti’s move to the PML-N has granted the party considerable force. Former chief minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the ANP candidate, will face the PML-N with Khawaja contesting for the national assembly seat and his son Umar Farooq Khan Hoti on the provincial assembly seat. While the PPP, JUI-F and ANP have resolved internal rifts amongst their ranks, fissures within the PML-N still remain in Mardan.
Like the past few elections, the atmosphere is favourable for the ANP in Swabi. Although Asfandyar Wali Khan was defeated on a National Assembly seat in 2008, his party still won a National Assembly and four provincial assembly seats. The JUI-F and QWP have also entered an alliance in Swabi. However, the JUI-F is still dealing with internal rifts in the district.
In Nowshera, the PPP faces an uphill battle with Engineer Tariq and Liaqat Ali Shabab trying to retain their respective National Assembly and provincial assembly seats. The PPP has also lost Daud Khattak, Hajj Mohammad and Shahid Khattak in the district. Here, ANP’s senior leader and former information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain is running for a provincial assembly seat, but is facing much difficulty in carrying out his election campaign because of security threats.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2013.