ISLAMABAD: While all eyes are set on NA-4 Peshawar-4 by-election slated for October 26 to test PTI’s popularity after four and a half years rule of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a man ascendant of a famous Charsadda Khanqah, Amini, Shafique Amini has thrown a big challenge to his major political rivals.
Haji Amin and Haji Turangzai were two freedom fighters who waged jihad against English rule. The seat, it may be recalled, fell vacant following the death of a PTI dissident and a veteran retired bureaucrat Gulzar Khan. This seat before being won by the PTI candidate belonged mainly to Awami National Party (ANP).
More interestingly, in wake of the ensuing political battle between main political parties PTI, PML-N and ANP, a regular campaign has not yet been started in the constituency sans two candidates Shafiq Amini a candidate fielded by newly emerging religious political party ‘Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah’ the one whose candidate had surprised many critics by achieving third position after PML-N and PTI on crucial Lahore seat NA-120 vacated by the ex-PM Nawaz Sharif when many mainstream party candidates like PPP and Jamat-i-Islami lost security.
Other newly emerging candidate in the constituency would be backed by Milli Muslim League (MML), the political wing of Jamatud Dawah of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. The party came under pressure from all sides including the government as a result of which interior ministry recently opposed its registration by the Election Commission of Pakistan. It may not be allowed to field candidates on its own symbol but it has gained sufficient strength to poll sizeable votes by supporting independent candidates in the upcoming polls.
The main contesting political parties have not started their regular election campaign but these two have not only started door-to-door voter contacting but has initiated corner meetings to attract voters’ support. Shafiq Amini has an edge over his rivals for enjoying total support of all the ‘khanqahs’ in the constituency which has maximum of their religious schools and ‘peerkhanas’, the traditional Sufis who use their influence through spiritual preaching. Amini seems to be confident to poll a sizeable number of votes and even predicts a major upset in the voters division. Other religious political parties would lose much of vote bank in this constituency for various reasons. JUI-F which has sufficient voters’ following is supporting its ally PML-N candidate which has put it in total disadvantage as it cannot vie for the seat to defeat its arch rivals, PTI. The sources in Peshawar have claimed that the JUI-F cadres are extremely unhappy over party decision not to field its strong candidate. Similarly, Jamat-i-Islami which had big vote share in the constituency as one of its candidates had won as MMA in 2002 polls under Musharraf but now that it is part of provincial government along with the PTI and it seems to have lost ground and stands no or little chance to win.
PTI which has decided to field a new entrant electable Arbab Amir having the backing of big chunk of the farming community as he is one of the largest land owners. The PTI old guards though are not happy for ignoring its own tested workers from the contest and the party appears to be confident for a smooth sailing though the PML-N and ANP have also brought in their best candidates. It will however only be clear when these main contesting parties start a full-fledged election campaign. Imran Khan who addressed a big public rally in Buner, one time power center of ANP, is likely to address rallies for the wholesome start of the campaign but his main rival PML-N will be handicapped by the absence of former premier Nawaz Sharif. Possibilities of PML-N chief’s return to make his presence in the constituency felt is not ruled out and if it happens it could frustrate PTI’s total sweep chances.