These days, political parties across the province are faced with a new type of challenge – to muster up support for the local government showdown without playing the party card for seats. The scenario in Charsadda district is no different from any other corner of the province.
Historically, Charsadda has had the privilege of producing prominent leaders and their families have been at daggers drawn politically ever since. Bacha Khan’s family that produced numerous political stalwarts belongs to Utmanzai village.
House of titans
Hashtnagar’s Sherpao village was the home of the late Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao, the man who emerged as a significant threat to the traditional Pukhtun politics of nationalism and communism. He was one of the founding members of Pakistan Peoples Party and was a close aide of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Following Hayat’s assassination on February 8, 1975, his brother Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao took the reins and remained associated with PPP till 1999. He formed PPP (Sherpao) which later rebranded itself as Qaumi Watan Party.
Following the 2013 general elections, the party emerged as a formidable force throughout K-P. They joined the provincial government but later parted ways following allegations of corruption levelled against them. Later on, the QWP also blamed a party MPA for ‘horse-trading’ during Senate polls.
Aftab quite successfully filled the vacuum that emerged following the demise of popular nationalist politicians. The leader exploited chinks in armours of parties like ANP and PPP but his own party’s weak structure meant the coming and going of people has become a regular feature.
LG polls are a classic example of how the party has been caught off guard. Several of its loyal leaders have deserted QWP and blamed it on decisions made by top-tier leadership. So much so, many die-hard QWP activists have returned party tickets to the leadership and chosen to contest polls independently. Although yet another attempt on Aftab’s life on April 30 has somewhat pushed his party on the back foot, sympathy might play a crucial role in determining who bags the crown of Charsadda.
Like in several other districts, the tripartite alliance of ANP, PPP and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl is also in a pickle in Charsadda. Although it has been able to field unanimous candidates in 35 of the district’s 49 union councils, some JUI-F candidates have cut deals with QWP. Efforts to resolve disputes in the remaining union councils are under way.
While Bacha Khan’s scions are on the road to recovery, the rift between Begum Nasim Wali Khan and Asfandyar Wali Khan is a major source of concern for ANP. As most of the family members have thrown weight behind Asfandyar, ANP is set to regain its lost glory in Charsadda.
Only two of K-P government’s three-party coalition has a presence in Charsadda. While Jamaat-e-Islami has pitted candidates on all 49 berths of the district, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders are still divided and are even confronting each other in Charsadda.
Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan does not have a single footprint in the area. Charsadda’s voters have always sided with nationalists and progressive leaders. However, JI is trying its best to rewrite history. Party chief Sirajul Haq has made numerous visits to the district of late.
In the 2013 general elections, ANP faced a shambolic defeat in its hometown. Charsadda’s two National Assembly and six K-P Assembly seats were all secured by other parties.
The QWP chief and JUI-F’s Maulana Gohar Shah were elected as MNAs while QWP’s Sultan Mohammad Khan, Sikandar Hayat Khan, Khalid Khan, Arshad Ali, PTI’s Arif Ahmadzai and JUI-F’s Fazal Shakoor won seats in the provincial legislature.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2015.
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