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Upcoming polls and political landscape of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Muhammad Imran

The beauty of democracy lies within its accountability. Democracy distinguishes itself from other forms of governmental systems, such as Monarchy or Oligarchy by giving people the right to elect their government after a specified interval. Elections provide an opportunity to the masses to pick and choose, elect or reject, drive in or out.

All over the world elections are contested on the basis of an agenda for governance. The word that comes from the Latin verb “gubernare,” or more originally from the Greek word “kubernaein,” which means “to steer.”.  According to political scientists it is the exercise of power or authority by political leaders for the well-being of their country’s citizens or subjects. For the past ten years our stumbling democracy is somehow able to cross the finishing line, and today we are proud to witness our elected assembly completing its five-year term.

We are going into the electionera, a term locally used for the election season, where everyone gets a chance to be heard, through their ballot. The election commission of Pakistan has already announced the election to be held on 25th of July, which leaves us into the election day seven weeks from now.

It will be too much on our plate to discuss the national political landscape for now and to cut to the chase we will look into the political scenario of Khyber PakhtunKhwa (KP). With the delimitation and FATA merger into KP the number of National Assembly seats rose up to 51, while the Provincial Assembly stays at 124. This doesn’t include seats of Provincial Assembly from FATA as its election has to be held in April 2019, after delimitation and proper arrangements.

In 2013 election, the PTI Tsunami came into power after wiping out all other political parties in KP. Conventionally, KP has always been an open field to every party. Every party has enjoyed its fair share of votes here. It had fallen into the lap of Pakistan People Party(PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML N), Awami National Party (ANP), and the Alliance of religious parties Muttahida Majlis-E-Amal (MMA).

The voting tendency in KP reflects that its voters believe on the policy of carrot and stick. Until now they have never given a second successive chance to any political party. People are comparatively free to vote according to their consciences. On the contrary we have seen interior Sindh and rural Punjab where Wadhairas and Chuduries have the power to manipulate people’s choices to vote in a desired way. It’s also interesting to note that every major party gets a representation from KP. In addition, it doesn’t fall for a single political party unlike Punjab or Sindh. However, this time tides seems to be different. All recent polls and surveys are pointing towards PTI getting a successive chance to power corridors. The way all opposition political parties and allies of PTI in government are bracing up against PTI affirms the fact that election is going to be between PTI and the rest of all. Every region or division of KP has a different pattern of voting.

Ideally, we can divide KP into five different zones: Peshawar valley and the adjoining districts, Malakand division the previous (PATA), Hazara division, South region including areas of Kohat, Bannu, D.I. Khan, and the newly included districts from previous FATA. The urban or plain region of KP comprising of Peshawar valley, Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi and Charsada plays the same role in formation of KP government as Punjab does on federal level. ANP has always been relying on this region to get maximum seats. However, in the 2013 election ANP managed to retain only one National and two Provincial Assembly seats. Chances are that ANP might bag more seats than it did in 2013, nevertheless, they are not able to come out as a majority party from the region.

The notion of easy load and corruption associated with ANP has penetrated in KP like an idiom. Corruption and ANP are taken as synonyms. However, ANP did not show any serious efforts to wash out this perception, instead they appointed Syed Masoom Shah (SMS) on a responsible position in party which reflects their approach towards transparency. Apart from that, ANP does not carry a single mega project to showcase except political rhetoric and shallow slogans of Pashtunwali. PTI came out as a winner from this region in the 2013 election and is still in the run from this area. If allocation of funds can win election, then the area belongs to PTI. Peshawar being the provincial capital, had been the centre of huge projects. Nowshera had the benefit of Chief Minister hometown and therefore received a huge chunk of provincial budgets. Swabi was lucky to have Asad Qaiser and Shahram Tarakai. Mardan also got two new universities, a girl’s cadet college, and a sports complex. Atif Khan used his full potential to make himself an electable. Moreover, the slogan of change is somehow attempted in education and health department. It is also a positive factor for PTI that its provincial bigwigs including Chief Minister and Speaker constituency falls in this region. Above all PTI still holds the charisma of Imran Khan, a significant factor.

The conglomeration of religious parties MMA is once again on the political horizon to show their muscles. Besides one seat of Molvi Qasim from Takht Bhai and Mufti Gohar from Charsadda, the area seems to be unfriendly for MMA. However, based on the number of rallies and demonstrations, the right-wing parties have arranged in Mardan in favor of Mashal Khan murderers, a wave of radicalization can be felt and a surprise pull might be expected from here. Unlike 2002, MMA does not have the strong anti-US sentiments to sell. Moreover, their five-year term from 2002 to 2007 does not carry any significant legislations to show their seriousness to Islamization. Their affinity towards Islamabad have also cast doubts on their claims. In short, MMA this time seems to be an attempt by JUI and JI merely to secure their strongholds.

For PMLN and PPP the region is politically infertile this time. PPP didn’t get a single seat from this zone in the 2013 election. PMLN won two seats from here, and one of their elected member Arbab Muhammad Waseem khan has already parted ways with the party, and is in PTI colours now.

Talk about the QWP, there is nothing to talk. Pervez Khattak using his time spent in Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) wisely has reduced it to Sherpao house only. Three of their MP’s who have a strong personal vote bank have joined PTI, namely Abdul Karim from Swabi, Sultan Muhammad Khan and Khalid Khan from Charsadda.

This leaves Sherpao family and Arshad Umerzai the lone warriors in the party as Ibrar Tanoli from Charsadda is in JI, while Bakhat Baider Khan from Lower Dir is in PPP fold now. So far not a single opposition party seems to be in position to dislodge PTI. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how things unfold in the near future as politics is the game of optics. In our next column we will discuss another zone of KP at length.

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