The results of the local government (LG) elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are not music to the ears of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PITI) as the opposition parties have managed to defeat the ruling party nominees in most areas, including its stronghold – Peshawar.
The poll results are significant as they represent the will of the people at the grassroots level and are seen as a prelude to the next national election. Yet, it seems, the LG poll results haven’t fully jolted the PTI as the government spokesperson still feels that the prime minister and PTI’s popularity in K-P still intact.
Calling the opposition party leaders “dwarfs”, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Monday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has a high stature and people would neither hand over Pakistan to Bilawal Bhutto, Maryam Nawaz nor Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the next general elections.
“When you gauge options, will you hand over Pakistan to Bilawal and Maryam instead of Imran Khan?” When reminded that the people of K-P have taken a step further by giving a decision in favour of JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the minister said that it were LG elections and “only a fool would take such a decision in the next general elections”.
“All of them are dwarfs,” Fawad said, “Imran Khan has a very high stature and the PTI did not face any challenge in the current situation.” Fawad, while admitting defeat, said that K-P is still PTI’s stronghold as the margin of losing PTI candidates is minimal.
Listing a few reasons of the defeat, the minister admitted that there were differences among the MNAs and MPAs of the party in K-P, which apparently helped others, adding that the mechanism of awarding of tickets was also flawed.
Several PTI candidates were contesting against each other as independent candidates, he said, adding that despite all odds, the PTI was still the highest vote getter.
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Fawad said that the poll results had also proved that the PPP and the PML-N were confined to their provinces and they did not exist beyond that. For the first time, he said, independent and transparent elections had taken place, adding there was no such example of happening the same under former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah.
“The credit goes to Imran Khan and the PTI for holding such an election that everyone is accepting the results,” Fawad said. “There is no concept of sitting government losing local government elections because of massive rigging along with Patwari, AC, SHOs running the government’s campaign,” he said, adding that defeat must be accepted and the PTI should move forward.
“Defeat must be accepted to move ahead,” he said. “The PM has fulfilled his promise of giving an empowered local government system.”
The LG elections were held in 17 districts, comprising 64 tehsils, on a party-basis as per the ruling of the courts. Out of 64 tehsils, the JUI-F emerged as the leading party, whereas the PTI was trailing behind.
The biggest upset for the PTI was losing the seat for the coveted post of Peshawar mayor in the first LG elections held in K-P after the merger of tribal districts with it. According to unofficial results, JUI-F's Zubair Ali defeated PTI’s Rizwan Bangash by a margin of around 11,500 votes.
Surprisingly, the Awami National Party (ANP) has made a comeback and managed to win nine seats. Reportedly, independent candidates have bagged nine tehsil chairperson seats as well and the PML-N, PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Islehat managed to grab two seats each. The official results are still awaited.
‘PTI competing against itself’
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz maintained that the ruling party lost the polls as “it was competing with itself”. “Had it not been so, we could have won in 14 districts,” he added.
The minister observed that inflation was one of the major factors that inflicted loss in the LG polls.
However, he was optimistic that the PTI would soon rectify its weaknesses and succeed in the second phase of the K-P LG elections.
He said JUI-F Fazl would not emerge in the lead in K-P as “they lack manifesto and have no future in the province. They won votes only in the name of religion”.
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