-Sympathy votes may benefit Bilour after brother, nephew’s deaths
PESHAWAR: Peshawar is all set to witness a tough electoral battle between former federal minister Al-Hajj Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of Awami National Party (ANP) and former Town Nazim Shaukat Ali of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) on NA-31 Peshawar-V where all arrangements have been made for the election on July 25.
As only a few days are left in the election, the electioneering pace has reached its peak in NA-31, formerly known as NA-1, where a one-on-one contest is expected between Bilour and Haji Shaukat.
Bilour is a strong candidate as he has won this seat four times in the past, defeating former premier and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto in the 1990 election.
However, he had faced a crushing defeat at the hands of PTI Chief Imran Khan in 2013’s general election by a huge margin of around 60,000 votes.
Bilour then staged a comeback in the National Assembly (NA) in 2013 by-election after Khan quit the constituency, defeating PTI’s Gul Badshah by a margin of 6000 plus votes.
He started his political career after joining ANP in the 70’s following his participation in the presidential election campaign of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah in 1965. He was elected to the Senate of Pakistan in 1975.
Popularly known as Haji Sahib, he also contested the 1988 election from then NA-1 Peshawar but remained unsuccessful and lost to senior politician and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao on a PPP ticket.
However, he emerged victorious in the 1988 by-election and became a member of the national assembly (MNA) for the first time. Bilour was elected to the NA in 1990, 1993 and 2008 from his home constituency of NA-I.
Ghulam Bilour had served as the Federal Minister for Railways twice and also as the Federal Minister for Local Government and Rural Development. He faced the tragic deaths of his brother Bashir Bilour Shaheed and nephew Haroon Bilour Shaheed with steadfastness and sympathy votes may benefit him in the election.
On the other hand, Haji Shaukat Ali is posing a serious challenge to the seasoned politician. He has contributed significant development work to the constituency while he was town nazim and is enjoying the support of the party vote bank.
The candidates are diligently wooing voters for a secure win over the other. A total of 13 candidates are flexing their muscles from NA-31 including Muhammad Nadeem of PML-N, Akhunzada Irfanullah Shah of PPP-P and Muhammad Siddiq-ur-Rehman Piracha from Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and they can surprise many on D-Day.
The fate of these candidates would be decided by 390,211 registered voters consisting of 223,574 men and 166,637 women on the coming Wednesday. The overall registered voters’ in this constituency in 2013 was 320,578 which shows an increase of 69,633 on the voters list during the last five years. The decision of these new voters would be a key factor in the election’s result.
This constituency has a mixture Hindku, Pashtun and other ethnic groups but the campaign on social media and political integrity of voters predict that majority vote would be cast on party basis.
The contestants are moving door to door as the campaign gains momentum, pledges are being made once again and so are big promises.
A history of the last three general elections indicates that it has been the tendency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) voters to discard incumbent ruling parties.
A PML-N led government from 1997 was replaced with an MMA government in the 2002 elections.
In the 2008 election, MMA was voted out with ANP ascending the throne which was then replaced with a PTI led government.
This could mean that PTI could face difficult times ahead but as the party has claimed to deliver during its five-year tenure in KP, the situation might turn out in its favour.
The stature of candidates can also not be ignored as personal popularity and contact with people matters much in the elections. Since it is a key constituency for the Bilour family and ANP, they would be putting in maximum effort to secure this seat on July 25.