- By-poll for Peshawar IV to be held on October 26
MIAN ABRAR & AZIZ BUNERI
ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: With the election campaign for the by-election in NA-4, Peshawar IV, entering the final phase, battle lines have been drawn between the optimist candidates vying for the slot and the federal and the provincial governments have commenced several development projects to attract voters.
The constituency falls vacant due to the sad demise of PTI’s rebel lawmaker Gulzar Khan who died after a protracted illness. The by-poll would be held on October 26, 2017. A detailed survey to the constituency and interaction with the who’s who of the NA-4 has revealed that the real battle is between three candidates: Arbab Khushdil Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP), Arbab Amir Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Nasir Khan Mosazai of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).
While almost all the candidates of the major political parties are busy in convincing the people at large about their conviction to serve their constituents with the best of their abilities, the top leadership of the PML-N and PTI has directed to ensure a win the polls at ‘all costs’.
NA-4 is the biggest constituency of Peshawar from where almost all heavyweight political families draw their strength. Badhber, Chamkani, Surizay, Urmar and suburb of the Kohat Road fall under the constituency which also includes three provincial assembly seats. The constituency mostly comprises of rural areas and outskirts of Nowshera and Frontier Region Peshawar (Darra Aadamkhel) and adjoining areas.
The ECP has set up 269 polling stations for the by-poll out of which 35 polling stations would have electronic voting machines (EVMs) too. At least, 13 candidates are in the run for the by-poll. This is also the constituency which has witnessed terror incidents too and the government has taken successive measures to restore law and order.
Of those measures was the formation of lashkars (private security) lead by political heavyweights. Arbab Khushdil had led one of those lashkars which helped him win massive public support as he led the war against terrorism from the front. In 2013 general election, NA-4 was won by Gulzar Khan who bagged 55,134 votes.
Nasir Mosazai had received 20,412 votes, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sabir Hussain Awan had got 16,493, while ANP’s Arbab Ayub Jan obtained 15,795 votes. Turnout in 2013 polls was recorded 40.34 percent as 138,555 votes were polled out of which 3,707 were rejected. In 2002 election, Sabir Awan had won on MMA ticket while Arbab Zahir Khan had won on ANP ticket in 2008 election. PTI’s Arbab Amir is the younger brother of Arbab Zahir.
Sources in PTI said that the party’s focus on the by-poll was a little initially. However, everything changed after party Chairman Imran Khan visited Peshawar last week and took cognizance of the situation. The party chairman came down hard over the provincial government and directed to start a door-to-door campaign for Arbab Amir.
The PTI chief also admonished PTI’s senior minister Shah Farman and directed him to ensure all party lawmakers under NA-4 lead the campaign for the party candidate. Since then, the PTI’s campaigning has triggered and the results are promising too. PTI workers are actively engaging the voters.
Interestingly, PTI has managed to win all the three provincial constituencies falling under NA-4 including four union councils of PK-9 and PK-10 and PK-11. The constituency is mostly rural part of Peshawar. The major issue of the residents remains the irrigation of Uch canal which is mostly dry and is filled in through tubewell at Warsak.
Since the canal irrigates around 20,000 acres of the land, provision of water remains the problem as tubewell is mostly found out of order or the transformers linked to the canal is found out of order. The provincial government blames WAPDA for failure of provision of power and this is why the PML-N becomes relevant.
PML-N’s campaign is being led by MNA from Shangla Dr Ibadullah who is the brother of Amir Muqam. MNA Nafeesa Khattak is leading the PTI’s campaign. ANP’s women are also leading campaign wearing veils. To counter them, the PTI has also launched its women councillors to woo the women voters.
Posters of Haji Liaquat of Milli Muslim League (MML) and Dr Mohammad Shafique Amini of the Tehreek-e-Labbiak Ya Rasool Allah are visible in the constituency which may prove detrimental to bigger parties. All the three MPAs elected from these constituencies have been accommodated too.
Shah Farman is senior minister, Ishtiaq Urmer is adviser to the chief minister and Fazle Elahi is parliamentary secretary on environment. However, the bad news for Arbab Amir has been that the three MPAs have not been supporting him openly. Elahi has been accused of secretively backing PML-N’s Nasir Mosazai, who happens to be his cousin; while Shah Farman has lost contact with the masses due to his continued absence from the constituency.
Urmer has also failed to convince the people of his constituency who blame Arbab Amir for not being vocal and supportive to the resolution of their problems. Another issue for Arbab Amir is that his close relatives are being blamed for supporting the ANP candidate. Mosazai is also faces a dilemma. One of his close relatives, Haji Siffat, is secretively canvassing for Khushdil Khan of ANP.
Khushdil, who is popular among people at large, has a bigger challenge too. His strength lies in only one provincial assembly constituency while in other two constituencies, he is too weak. Another factor going against PTI is the fact that its candidate in the by-poll held for PK-8 Peshawar had lost to PML-N’s Arbab Wasim. This was the second biggest blow for the ruling party which had already lost bypoll held in NA-1 to Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of ANP.
In 2013 polls, PTI chief Imran Khan had won from NA-1. PTI voters in Kechauri, the hometown of Arbab Amir, are unhappy with the PTI candidate for an unfortunate incident. Arbab Amir is also unpopular in Urmer town due to lack of any development work. Some of the close family members of Arbab Amir are also supporting the ANP candidate.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Khushdil said that youth of Peshawar had given mandate to PTI which had disappointed the people of KP. Despite the announcement by central leadership of JUI-F to support PPP candidate, the local leaders of JUI-F had decided to support him, he said and blamed the federal and the provincial governments for misuse of the resources in NA-4.
“Amir Muqam is distributing transformers and gas connections to influence voters and election commission is taking no action. The provincial government also has issued a tender for shifting 440 mosques on solar energy to avoid load shedding.” He said that the central leaders of ANP would address the public gatherings in the constituency which would further boost his chances to win polls.
“We have been canvassing for the past two months and our women have also been contributing. We will defeat the federal and KP governments,” he claimed. PML-N nazim Haroon Siffat is also involved in developmental and gasification work which is in full swing and PML-N candidate was banking on support from the federal government.
Asad Gulzar, son of the late MNA Gulzar Ahmed from NA-4, is another strong candidate who has got PPP ticket. The PPP has a good vote bank and Asad is trying to win sympathies of the voters. The party’s local leaders are fully backing him.
Though Shah Farman remains absent from his constituency, the local councilors representing him are quite active in electioneering and they have already done a lot of the development work. Arbab Amir is banking on Imran’s rally scheduled to be held today.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had issued a notice against the rally but it was informed by the provincial government that the rally is in NA-2 and not in NA-4 limits. Wasil Farooq of the Jamat-e-Islami is another candidate who has served as town councilor twice. MNA Sirajul Haq is also holding rallies for Wasil while Jamaat members are also actively involved in canvassing.