As local government elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa edge even closer, candidates are trying to maximise their presence by having their faces zipping around the city. Nothing could be a better vehicle for advertising than one of the roughly 30,000 rickshaws in the provincial capital.
Posters of hundreds of candidates, testing their popularity through the ballot, are smeared over the poles and walls of the city, but some feel it is time to go mobile. As a result, rickshaws have become the latest electioneering tool.
Candidates have promised rickshaw drivers they will complete repairs of their vehicles in exchange for putting up their pictures on the back of the vehicle. “A candidate promised to repair the roof of my rickshaw,” says Mohammad Asif who is in Ejazabad to drop off a passenger. “I am serving as his mascot from street to street and town to town, giving him cost-effective publicity.”
Publicity for a fix
Asif’s rickshaw is carrying the poster of Dr Umar Daraz Khan who is contesting a village council seat. His posters are also glued to other such vehicles in Landi Sarak.
“Another rickshaw driver took me to the candidate (Khan) and asked me to paste the campaign material on my rickshaw.” Asif is not voting for Khan himself, but is happily parading his poster.
“I don’t care whether he wins or loses. All I need him to do is fulfil the promise he made to all the rickshaw drivers and repair their vehicles because they are giving him plenty of advertising.”
Asif also says positive things about Khan when people ask about the candidate’s conduct with the public in the neighborhood.
Mostly, it is Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and independent candidates who are using rickshaws for their campaigns.
Mohammad Siddique Paracha and Nasir Khan Mohmand, joint candidates of JI and Jamiat Ulema-e- Islam-Fazl for district council and town council respectively actually own rickshaws which are run by hired drivers.
“We have 35 rickshaws [between the two candidates] and all have these posters, passing on the message [of candidates],” says Inamullah, who works as their driver on Charsadda road. “The rickshaws visit every nook and cranny of Peshawar and are the best tools for publicity,” he highlights as he caters to a woman seeking a ride.
“They could be even more useful if used in general elections as the candidate has to send his message to a larger area,” he says, encouraging candidates to use this option. “Poor drivers can get their vehicles fixed in return.”
Some rickshaw drivers are touting the posters totally free of cost. Zeeshan of Nawa Kali is one such driver who has glued the face of a JI candidate on his vehicle.
“He is my friend, so I am not asking for any favours in return. However, others are benefitting from the occasion.”
Even though he does not mind the freebie for a friend, Zeeshsan thinks rickshaw drivers should take advantage of the poll campaigns.
According to Khyber Rickshaw Union President Murad Khan, around 30,000 rickshaws zip along the streets of Peshawar daily.
“The candidates are requesting these vehicles to carry their posters, but these are the same people who will use traffic police to bother drivers.” He advised drivers to charge for carrying the posters as “candidates will forget them after winning”.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2015.
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