Tough competition expected among NA-4 bigwigs

  • By-poll for Peshawar IV to be held on October 26

PESHAWAR: Battle lines have been drawn up between candidates competing for the acquisition of the parliamentary seat in NA-4, Peshawar IV constituency while the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments have commenced developmental projects to attract voters for the by-election scheduled to be held on October 26.

The constituency fell vacant following the demise of dissident PTI Member of National Assembly (MNA) Gulzar Khan who died from a protracted illness on August 28.

A detailed survey of the constituency and interactions with prominent people reveal that the real battle is between three candidates. These are Arbab Amir Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Arbab Khushdil Khan of Awami National Party (ANP) and Nasir Khan Mosazai of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

While the candidates of almost all the major political parties are busy convincing the people at large to vote for them, the top leaderships of PML-N and PTI have especially directed their parties to ensure a victory in the constituency “at all costs”.

NA-4 is the biggest constituency of Peshawar from where many influential political families draw their strength. It includes Badhber, Chamkani, Surizay, Urmar and suburbs of Kohat Road, and is mostly comprised of rural areas including outskirts of Nowshera and Frontier Region Peshawar (Darra Adam Khel). The constituency also has three provincial assembly seats.

At least 13 candidates are in the run for the by-election. The ECP has set up 269 polling stations for the by-election out of which 35 polling stations would have electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The constituency has been vulnerable to terrorist attacks in the past and the government has taken measures to maintain law and order. Among these measures has been the formation of ‘lashkars’ (private militias) by political heavyweights including ANP candidate Arbab Khushdil Khan, who won massive public support through this step.

NA-4 was won by PTI candidate Gulzar Khan in 2013 with a total of 55,134 votes. Nasir Khan Mosazai (PML-N), Sabir Hussain Awan (Jamaat-e-Islami) and Arbab Ayub Jan (ANP) followed with 20,412, 16,493 and 15,796 votes, respectively. The turnout in 2013 polls was recorded at 40.34 percent as 138,555 votes were polled out of which 3,707 were rejected.

In 2002, Sabir Hussain Awan (Jamaat-e-Islami) won the NA-4 seat on a Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal ticket while Arbab Zahir Khan won the seat on an ANP ticket in 2008. The present PTI candidate Arbab Amir is Arbab Zahir’s younger brother.

Sources in PTI told Pakistan Today that they had initially not been focusing on the by-elections very much but that changed when Imran Khan visited Peshawar last week and admonished the provincial government for not taking the polls seriously. He instructed the party members to start a door-to-door campaign for their candidate Arbab Amir. The results have begun to look promising since then, the sources said.

PTI has control over all three provincial constituencies falling under the NA-4 constituency. The major issue of the people from these constituencies, which mostly comprise rural parts of Peshawar, remains that of the irrigation of Uch canal. The canal is filled through a tubewell at Warsak and is responsible for the irrigation of almost 20,000 acres of land. However, the irrigation of these lands often remains a problem as either the tubewell or the transformers linked to the canal are often found to be out of order. The KP government places the blame for the inability to provide water on WAPDA.

The three MPAs (holding PTI tickets) in the provincial constituencies which fall under NA-4 hold important offices: Shah Farman serves as a senior minister, Fazle Elahi is the parliamentary secretary for environment and Ishtiaq Urmer is appointed as the advisor to the chief minister. However, the three MPAs have not been able to gain much support for their party’s candidate, much to Arbab Amir’s disappointment. Shah Farman, due to his continued absences from the constituency, has lost contact with the masses; Fazle Elahi has been accused of secretly backing his cousin Nasir Mosazai, the PML-N candidate; and Ishtiaq Umer has been unable to help waylay people’s doubts, who blame Arbab Amir for not being supportive of their resolutions to the problems they face. Arbab Amir also has to face people’s charge that his close relatives are supporters of the ANP candidate Khushdil Khan.

Despite these setbacks, local councillors from Shah Farman’s constituency have actively been involved in electioneering for the PTI candidate and done a lot of developmental work. Moreover, Arbab Amir has high expectations from a rally by Imran Khan scheduled to be held on Friday (today). The rally was earlier objected to by the Election Commission of Pakistan until it was determined that the rally was not being in held in NA-4 but in NA-2 constituency.

PML-N candidate Nasir Mosazai also faces a dilemma as he also finds one of his close relatives, Haji Siffat, secretly canvassing for Khushdil Khan.

For his part, ANP candidate Khushdil Khan’s strength lies mostly in one of the three provincial assembly constituencies which fall in the greater national assembly NA-4 constituency, while he is weak in the other two constituencies.

In an interview with Pakistan Today, Khushdil Khan said that the youth of Peshawar had given the mandate to PTI in 2013 but it had disappointed the people of KP. He also blamed the federal and provincial governments for the misuse of resources in NA-4. Among these, he named the recent distribution of transformers and gas connections by Amir Muqam to people to win their votes, and the KP government’s issuance of tender to shift 440 mosques on solar energy. He lamented that the election commission was not taking any action against these opportunistic methods.

Khushdul Khan also revealed that the ANP leaders would be addressing public gatherings in the constituency which would further boost his chances of winning the by-polls. “We have been canvassing for the past two months along with the help of our women. We will defeat the federal and KP governments,” he said. Khan also said that even though Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F)’s (JUI-F) central leadership had announced its support for the PPP candidate, the local JUI-F leaders had decided to support him.

Asad Gulzar, the son of late MNA Gulzar Ahmed from NA-4, is also a strong candidate of the by-polls and carries a PPP ticket. PPP has a good vote bank and Asad is actively trying to win sympathies of the voters. PPP local leaders are fully backing him.

Wasil Farooq of Jamaat-e-Islami is another candidate who has served as town councillor twice. MNA Sirajul Haq is holding rallies for Wasil while the party members are also actively involved in canvassing.

Posters of Haji Liaquat of Milli Muslim League (MML) and Dr Mohammad Shafique Amini of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah are also visible in the constituency which may prove detrimental to the bigger parties.

 

With additional reporting by AZIZ BUNERI in Peshawar

 

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions.



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