PESHAWAR: Mohammad Bashir Khan said he was a bit apprehensive facing the Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq because of his stature and name recognition, but was still confident of winning after having nearly achieved victory in the 2013 general election.
The 50-year old Bashir Khan defeated Sirajul Haq by a margin of nearly 17,000 votes in the JI’s stronghold of Lower Dir. It was one of the biggest upsets in the July 2018 general election.
“I was concerned that JI workers from all over the country would come to our constituency NA-7 to campaign for Sirajul Haq. They couldn’t afford the defeat of their party leader,” he recalled. “No doubt the PTI activists enthusiastically campaigned for me, but I also received invaluable help from up to 6,000 overseas Pakistanis who came from the Gulf States, UK, US, Malaysia to join my election campaign,” he added.
According to Bashir Khan, the overseas Pakistanis belonging to his Lower Dir constituency took leave from their jobs to return home and spent their own money to support his campaign. “They wanted me and the PTI to win against the Jamaat-i-Islami which was well-entrenched in Dir,” he added.
The MNA-elect said another factor for his victory against Sirajul Haq was the frustration of the people living in the hilly areas in his constituency as the Jamaat-i-Islami despite winning successive polls in Lower Dir had ignored their villages and done little to solve their problems. “The constituency, particularly the hilly areas, has lagged behind in terms of development. The roads are broken and unpaved and girls’ schools and even those for boys are few and far between. Healthcare facilities are lacking,” he complained.
Bashir Khan argued that people in Lower Dir voted for the Jamaat-i-Islami in elections for the last 40 years, but it failed to deliver despite being part of coalition governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “They have voted for change represented by the PTI. It is rejection of traditional politics practiced by the Jamaat-i-Islami,” he maintained.
Bashir Khan, who belongs to Gambhir village and is the grandson of a known Tarklanri tribe elder Shad Mohammad Khan, claimed that he had also won the May 2013 general election against Jamaat-i-Islami candidate Sahibzada Yaqoob, but 5,000 of his votes were rejected overnight to deprive him of victory. “I had polled 48,417 votes against 44,600 received by my rival. I was made to lose. I filed a case in the Election Tribunal, but was asked by my party not to pursue it as Jamaat-i-Islami was our coalition partner in the PTI-led government in the province,” he explained.
Having joined the PTI in 1996, Bashir Khan is among those who have stood by Imran Khan through thick and thin. He contested past elections also on the PTI ticket when the party didn’t have any chance of success. “We kept trying and remained hopeful. My commitment with Imran Khan and the PTI is total,” he remarked.
For Bashir Khan, it has been a long journey of 22 years as a member of the PTI. His family was associated for years earlier with the old National Awami Party, now functioning as Awami National Party, but he has known only one party and that is PTI. He finally found success in the July 25 polls by defeating the Jamaat-i-Islami ameer in the party’s stronghold of Lower Dir.