Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is out to contest election on multiple National Assembly seats next month as a ‘skeleton key’ to rejuvenate his political fortunes and up the ante against the ruling coalition.
However, while he is expected to breeze through other constituencies, four seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) are likely to be a tough nut to crack as he faces top local politicians in their own strongholds.
He will have to bite into local political complexities to triumph over the traditional victors. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 42 candidates are in the run for the four slots in the province.
As per the initial list, six candidates have submitted nomination papers for NA-22 Mardan, nine are in the run for NA-24 Charsadda, 10 for NA-31 Peshawar and 17 are contesting polls from NA-45 Kurram.
Another novelty pointed out by the political oddsmakers is that the PTI chief will be trying his luck in three of the four constituencies – Mardan, Charsadda and Kurram – for the first time.
In NA-31 Peshawar, Imran will take on the Awami National Party (ANP) which has once again fielded Ghulam Ahmad Bilour. The candidate is jointly backed by the constituent parties of the mighty coalition.
It is pertinent to note that both had contested polls against each other from the same constituency, then NA-1, in 2013. The PTI chairman won the seat but later vacated it.
However, Ghulam Bilour remained successful in the by-poll.
Similarly, in NA-24 Charsadda-II, the PTI chief encounters ANP Provincial President Aimal Wali Khan who is vying also vying for the seat in elections scheduled to be on September 25. Aimal, who is the son of ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan and a joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is contesting the byelection for the first time for a National Assembly seat from his hometown.
If history is any indication, Imran Khan will have to pierce through the byzantine political arithmetic of the citadels that traditionally belong to the ANP, which has won the constituency a record six times while JUI-F three times and PTI only once.
From 1970 to 2018, the constituency was grabbed thrice by ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan, twice by Khan Abdul Wali Khan and once by Begum Nasim Wali Khan.
Similarly, JUI-F’s Maulana Hassan Jan Shaheed emerged victorious in the 1990 elections and Maulana Gohar Shah won it twice while PTI’s Fazal Muhammad Khan secured a victory in this constituency in the general elections in 2018.
In the 1970 election, ANP Chief Abdul Wali Khan clinched victory after securing 34,359 votes while his wife Begum Nasim Wali Khan secured victory on the ticket of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) with 48,653 votes during the 1977 elections.
Abdul Wali Khan regained the seat in the 1998 elections after obtaining 63,185 votes. However, Abdul Wali Khan lost to JUIF’s Maulana Hassan Jan Shaheed in the 1990 elections after the latter bagged 66,452 votes, resultantly the former left practical politics.
In the 2002 general election, JUI-F candidate Maulana Gohar Shah secured victory with 55,917 votes while ANP’s Asfandyar Wali was again elected in the 2008 elections after securing 38,835 votes.
In the 2013 elections, the seat was taken again by Maulana Gohar Shah on JUI-F’s ticket with 53,610 votes and PTI’s Fazal Muhammad achieved a landslide victory in the 2018 elections with 83,596 votes.
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