PESHAWAR: As he heads for another likely defeat in the election for the President of Pakistan on September 4, the JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman could be on course to completing a hat-trick of losses in the election year 2018.
However, far more painful than the presidential polls loss would continue to be his defeat from two National Assembly constituencies in his native Dera Ismail Khan in the July 25 general election. Of the two losses, the one at the hands of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Mohammad Yaqoob Shaikh was striking as the winner had been a member of his party for eight years until the recent past.
The 57-year old Yaqoob Shaikh had twice contested election for the Senate from the JUI-F platform and lost narrowly. He had joined the JUI-F in 2011 after starting friendship with lawmaker Maulana Lutfur Rahman, the younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rahman.
“I conveyed to the Maulana brothers that I want to contest election for the National Assembly from the NA-39 constituency. I had a feeling they won’t let me contest. In the end though, they didn’t give me an answer and I went ahead and contested the polls on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ticket,” Yaqoob Sheikh recalled while talking to The News.
Yaqoob Shaikh easily won the seat, polling 79,334 votes against 52,031 obtained by Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the head of the five-party religio-political alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).
His victory by a margin of 27,302 votes was termed as an upset, but Yaqoob Shaikh argued that he was hopeful of success. “I had been campaigning in the constituency for three months while Maulana Fazlur Rahman started his campaign 12 days before the polling date as he and his party wasn’t sure if the election would be held. Also, he hadn’t realized that the electorate had started hating him due to his kind of politics and for ignoring the needs of the voters,” he argued.
Yaqoob Shaikh, who is a businessman, claimed he would have won by a bigger margin if the PTI candidate for the provincial assembly constituency Sardar Ikramullah Gandapur had not lost his life in a suicide attack during the election campaign. “Our voters in the Kulachi area to which Sardar Ikramullah belonged were upset, the provincial assembly election was postponed and many didn’t vote in the National Assembly polls in which I was the candidate. I estimated that I could have obtained another 10,000 to 12,000 votes,” he argued.
He said he lost another 8,401 votes because an independent candidate Qaizar Khan, brother of Sardar Umar Farooq Miankhel had been given ‘kulfi’ (frozen dairy dessert or local ice-cream) as an election symbol which resembled the PTI’s ‘bat’ and many confused Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters voted for him. He said Qaizar Khan had withdrawn
from the electoral contest quite late and his name and symbol was printed on the ballot paper.
Yaqoob Shaikh admitted that he wasn’t an old member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, but had a clear vision like Imran Khan of serving the people, commitment to the party cause and hatred for fraud and lies in politics.
“My political base is social work. I started my politics from union council level and later won a seat in the District Council Dera Ismail Khan. I built grassroots network due to my work for the deprived sections of the population,” he said.
He recalled building tubewells to provide safe drinking water to communities, extending healthcare services and giving jobs to the needy as some of his welfare activities in Dera Ismail Khan.
When reminded of his promise to provide 4,000 jobs to people of his constituency, Yaqoob Shaikh said he stood by his commitment and would accommodate them not only in his private industrial units, but also persuade industrialists known to him to invest in Dera Ismail Khan. “This includes 1,100 direct jobs in my power plant and steel and sugar mills. A textile unit can provide 3,500 jobs. There will also be creation of indirect jobs and generation of economic activities,” he said. “The Sapphire group has plans to set up a cement plant and sugar mills. Dera Ismail Khan would become an industrial hub and being on the CPEC route it would have highways going up to Wana and also railway track,” he added.
Yaqoob Shaikh pointed out that the Chashma Right Bank lift-cum-gravity canal project would irrigate about 280,000 hectares of land in Dera Ismail Khan, making the district the granary of the province.
“The federal government had promised to provide 65 percent of the funds and the KP government the remaining 35 percent. The project must be completed for the prosperity of Dera Ismail Khan and the province,” he stressed.
Yaqoob Shaikh’s family belongs to Abakhel in Lakki Marwat district, but it shifted to Dera Ismail Khan about 300 years ago.
He did his MBA from Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan and then spent the next 31 years in Karachi as he worked at the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation and then a brokerage firm. About 17 years ago, he founded his private firm that acquired refrigerated containers to transport fruit, vegetables, frozen meat and chicken as part of the transit trade to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. He did well and made plans to establish industrial units and also enter politics.