KOHAT: Kohat district is one of the toughest electoral battlegrounds where all parties will flex their political muscle for the three provincial assembly seats and one national assembly seat.
Even though Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have agreed to an electoral partnership across K-P, party leaders are likely to face difficult negotiations in Kohat as both Engineer Malik Asad (PML-N) and Gohar Saifullah (JUI-F) are strong candidates in the region.
Previously, Javaid Ibrahim Paracha was a formidable ticket holder for the PML-N in NA-14. However, being retired, he decided not to contest. Asad, who left PPP after developing differences with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination, contested the 2008 elections as an independent and later joined PML-N.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have nominated Pir Dilawar Shah, a former Awami National Party (ANP) MNA, who recently joined the party. Shah’s position in the area, however, is not very strong. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have nominated Pir Fahim, who is considered to be a weak candidate, while Sheryar Afridi and Afzal Khan Shinwari will be standing for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
It seems the PTI will have a strong chance given the fact that it has two candidates. However, the fight for the constituency will come down to PML-N and JUI-F candidates, the strongest in NA-14.
Shamim Afridi has been given an ANP ticket and Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani, a PML-N activist, will contest as an independent.
In 2008, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was represented by the late Shahid Khan Afridi. This year, no one is willing to stand for the MQM in the polls.
The situation is difficult to predict in the constituency as both JUI-F and PML-N candidates have a sufficient vote bank to win the election. Ironically, ANP, which won most of the seats from Kohat in 2008, has been unable to find a suitable candidate.
In the 2008 general elections, Amjad Khan Afridi was elected from PK-38 as an independent candidate even though he was a member of the Awami National Party (ANP). The ANP, however, did not give him a party ticket and instead chose to support Shaukat Habib.
In his show of loyalty to the ANP, Amjad gifted the seat to ANP and was awarded the portfolio of ministry for housing. Nawabzada Aurangzeb Alam Khan, who contested from PK-37 also as an independent candidate, ended up in second place and later joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2012. He will contest from the same constituency in the general elections.
Shaukat Habib parted ways with the ANP and joined the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) in 2012 along with his father Al-Haj Ghulam Habib. Al-Haj will contest the PK-37 seat on a JUI-F ticket.
Former provincial minister for jails Hidayatullah Afridi will contest on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket while Malik Iqbal Awan on a Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ticket.
None of the PPP members applied for a party ticket in PK-37. Eyeing an opportunity, Muhammad Tariq recently joined the party and applied for one. Though it is likely Tariq will be awarded the ticket, his strength as a candidate will be limited in the wake of other contestants from PTI, JUI-F, and Amjad Afridi.
Considering the changing alliances and chosen candidates, ANP’s Amjad Afridi is a strong candidate in the contest for PK-37. Amjad, as previously, will contest the elections as an independent candidate as part of his strategy to triumph over other contesters.
Votes for Hidayatullah Afridi’s and Amjad Afridi will be distributed between the two due to family ties, while the vote banks of Ghulam Habib and Muhammad Tariq will be negatively affected because they hail from the same village.
This puts PTI’s Nawabzada Aurangzeb in a position of strength, considering he was the runner up in the 2008 general elections and just lost by 117 votes. Family rifts between JUI-F’s Shoukat and ANP’s Amjad Afridi will also favour PTI in gaining additional votes.
The PK-38 constituency is distributed along sectarian lines and considering the spate of sectarian violence across the country, both Shias and Sunnis will push their candidates, along with the efforts of political parties to field their own candidates.
It is important to mention the PK-38 constituency has not been affected by any violence in recent months.
In the 2008 general elections, Syed Qalb-e-Hassan clinched the PK-38 seat on a PPP ticket. However, Hassan’s uncle and former Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Syed Ibn-e-Ali parted ways with the PPP and joined ANP; he will contest the election on the latter’s ticket.
The JUI-F has not decided its candidate for PK-38 yet. Earlier, there were indications that JUI-F district chief Maulana Abdul Hai would contest the election, but with the joining of former Nazim of Urban-V Dr Matiullah Shah from JI, JUI-F has found a strong candidate in Shah.
The JI will issue the ticket to Haji Muhammad Hamid Khan, while former ANP and now PTI member Shahbaz Gul will contest from the same constituency.
MPA Musarrat Shafi is expected to receive an ANP ticket for a reserved seat, while Advocate Masood and Syed Mohsin Shah are also seeking an ANP ticket.
Mohsin, who is MNA Khursheed Begum’s brother-in-law, could contest from PK-38 as an independent candidate, but because the ANP vote bank is unevenly divided, none of its candidates are likely to even end up as the runner-up.
PTI’s position is also weak because Shahbaz Gul is not socially active and is more of a businessman. The real battle remains among Qalb-e-Hassan, Ibn-e-Ali and Dr Matiullah Shah. Though the situation might be favourable for Hassan and Ali, the JUI-F’s candidate will have an advantage because the division of votes between the two due to family ties will leave room for the JUI-F candidate to maneuver through. Still, some political analysts say Hassan may emerge victorious.
The 2008 general elections witnessed an interesting twist when Dr Iqbal Din, a JI member, was elected as MPA from PK-39, despite the fact that his party had boycotted the elections. Rifts surfaced between JI and Din, after which he received offer from JUI-F to join them. But he remained loyal to JI.
Just when JI’s district council was about to decide on another candidate for PK-39, Din’s name surfaced and was given a green signal from the party, making him one of the strongest candidates in the constituency.
JUI-F then finally decided to give the party ticket to Colonel (retd) Shadab Khan, son of the late former MPA Shad Muhammad Khan. Shad was elected as MPA twice from PK-39 as a candidate of the erstwhile Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao, now known as Qaumi Watan Party.
ANP, on the other hand, will be represented by Advocate Nisar Khan, while PTI’s candidate is Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi, who contested the 2008 polls as an independent candidate.
Pir Adil Shah, believed to be PML-N’s strongest candidate from PK-39, recently joined the PPP along with his brother Pir Dilawar Shah. Adil Shah’s original constituency was PK-38. However, having left that constituency to Qalb-e-Hassan, he has now decided to contest from
Of the three strongest candidates – Adil Shah, Din and Shahid Qureshi – PTI seems to have an advantage in this constituency with support from the region’s youth.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2013.
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