In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) where politics is based on kinship and tribal affiliations, three people from the same family are contesting for one National Assembly seat.
In NA-36 Mohmand Agency, three candidates Fazal Hadi and his two nephews, former parliamentarian Malik Bilal Rehman and Malik Daud Shah, will face each other on Election Day. A total of 40 people are contesting for the seat.
The contestants are from the Halemzai tribe and share the same guesthouse in Gandao near Ghallanai.
Bilal Rehman, an independent candidate, and his brother Senator Hilal Rehman present themselves as the ‘real’ Maliks of their tribe and are garnering support on the basis of their five-year performance. Bilal told The Express Tribune that he had completed water schemes in the agency and other energy projects will soon become functional.
Daud Shah, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate and Bilal’s cousin, tells a different story about the Rehman brothers. Shah claims that Bilal never visited the tribe after winning the 2008 elections and chose to settle in Islamabad. Taking shots at Hilal, Shah alleged the senator had nothing to contribute towards the welfare of tribesmen.
“Their image among people is negative because both brothers remained oblivious to the miseries of the common man,” Daud said, predicting that their only chance at re-election would be through the strong credentials of their father and grandfather, who served as MNAs in the 1980s.
They, unlike the brothers, had worked for the area’s uplift, Daud added.
Bilal’s uncle Fazal Hadi adds a third angle to the intra-family rivalry. He claims his nephew repeatedly ignored him to further his own political career. “My only purpose is to defeat him on May 11,” Hadi said.
While the family prepares itself for the fight at the polls, awarding Daud a PTI ticket has created fissures within the party, with workers becoming disgruntled and some parting ways to form their own faction.
PTI workers opposing Shah’s candidacy formed an independent group ‘Junoon’ and will field their own candidate Raheem Shah against Daud. Shah was PTI’s general secretary in Mohmand Agency.
A similar intra-party rift is on-going within the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) where Samiullah will be contesting against Ghulam Muhammad, who was awarded an assembly ticket.
“I have my own vote bank which will vote for me on the basis of ideological affiliation,” Samiullah said, accusing Ghulam of pushing voters towards the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in the constituency.
Hairan Mohmand, a senior journalist, said this election provides voters the opportunity to elect the right candidate. “In tribal society, voters welcome everyone, but vote for those who can fulfil their demands on the spot,” he said.
He expressed optimism for Bilal’s re-election due to his strong financial standing.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2013.