PESHAWAR: Bannu is all set for a tough electoral battle between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan and former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief minister (CM) Akram Khan Durrani in the NA-35 constituency as the former has challenged the latter by forewarning of a crushing defeat in his home constituency.
Imran Khan had given an open challenge to the former federal minister as well as, former KP CM at a public meeting almost a year back, saying that he would defeat Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) senior leader in his own constituency in the general elections of 2018.
Keeping his words, the PTI supremo moved to Bannu and challenged Durrani for the polls on July 25.
A senior journalist of Bannu, Azam Khan told APP that the main reasons behind choosing Durrani’s constituency for a face-off are stated to be what Imran Khan believed was the use of harsh and abusive language against him in regard to his personal life.
He said that PTI stalwarts like Naeemul Haq and Faisal Javed are canvassing for their leader in the constituency. “Imran Khan will address another public rally in NA-35 on July 16 which political observers believe will mould public opinion in his favour,” he remarked.
Akram Durrani is a strong candidate and being a native of the district, has very strong roots due to his record development work as the province’s chief minister in addition to having served as the federal housing minister for five years (2013-18).
The clergy votes which dominate the constituency will also play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the candidates. However, both JUI-F and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S) have scores of seminaries across Bannu.
“Durrani is also being supported by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Achakzai as both parties withdrew their candidates in his favour,” said Azam Khan while adding that PML-N and PkMAP’s support may benefit the JUI-F leader to some extent.
A total of 12 candidates are in the run for NA-35, Bannu, including JUI-S Maulana Mufti Islam Noor, Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Yasmin Safdar, Awami National Party’s (ANP) Abdus Samad Khan, Pakistan Justice and Democratic Party’s (PJDP) Inamullah Khan, All Pakistan Muslim League’s (APML) Liaqat Ali, Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz-e-Pakistan’s (TTP) Wali Dad, independent candidates, Usman Ali Khan, Syed Hamid Shah, Safdar Iqbal and Aminullah Khan whose fate would be decided by 578,872 voters on July 25.
In General Election 2002, Maulana Nasib Ali Shah had contested the elections from this constituency on a Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) ticket and clinched victory by securing 78,886 votes against runner-up independent candidate, Muhammad Mustafa Khan who bagged 31,867 votes.
In General Election 2008, JUI-F Central Ameer, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman had clinched victory from here by securing 91,484 votes against rival Malik Nasir Khan who bagged 65,546 votes.
In General Election 2013, former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani had contested on the JUI-F ticket by securing 78,294 votes while PTI’s Matiullah Khan stood as the runner-up with 25,392 votes.
Moreover, the literacy ratio in the constituency has improved and candidates with best election manifestos and solutions to core issues like sanitation, solid waste management, provision of potable water, unemployment, poverty eradication can get an edge over others.