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December 12, 2008

By-election in Buner


December 12, 2008

PESHAWAR: Withdrawing from the race for by-election in Buner district, the Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao (PPP-S) Thursday put its weight behind Jamaat-e-Islami candidate and former NWFP Assembly speaker Bakht Jehan Khan for the NA-28 seat, which fell vacant due to the death of ANP MNA Abdul Mateen Khan.

The by-election will be held on December 28 in the mountainous Buner district, where the ruling Awami National Party won one National Assembly seat and three NWFP Assembly constituencies in the 2008 general elections.

In a major development, the PPP-S — one of the dominant parties in the district — withdrew its candidate Bakhtiar Ali Khan in favour of JI’s Bakht Jehan Khan. The decision was made public at the People’s House in Peshawar, where the JI and PPP-S leaders formed an electoral alliance for the upcoming by-election.

PPP-S chief Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, Provincial President and MPA Sikandar Hayat Sherpao, General Secretary Bakht Baidar Khan and former MNA from Buner Sher Akbar Khan represented the Sherpao group, while JI NWFP Ameer Sirajul Haq, party’s candidate for NA-28 Bakht Jehan Khan, former MNA Shabir Ahmad Khan and former MPA Habib-ur-Rehman participated in the hours long meeting at the residence of Aftab Sherpao. They also vowed to extend their alliance to other parts of the province in future.

The ANP has fielded Istiqbal Khan, son of late Abdul Mateen Khan, for the NA-28 by-poll, which had been won by his father thrice - in the 1993, 1997 and 2008 general elections. Mateen Khan secured 22,601 votes in the last general elections, followed by PPPP candidate Barrister Gohar Ali who got 18,456 votes. Former MNA Sher Akbar Khan of PPP-S secured third position in the 2008 election by obtaining 17,241 votes, while Pakistan Awami Party (PAP) chief Fanoos Gujar polled 13,386 votes in his native Buner district.

In the 2002 elections, the PPP-Sherpao had entered into an alliance with Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal

(MMA); the Sherpao group won the lone NA seat and one provincial assembly seat in Buner, while the MMA succeeded in two NWFP Assembly constituencies. However, the ANP swept the 2008 elections, which were boycotted by the JI. Former NWFP speaker Bakht Jehan has the credit to win his native provincial assembly seat, now PF-79 Buner, for 50 times.

The JUI-F has also fielded its candidate Maulana Fazl Ghafoor for NA-28, which proved a headache for its former ally in the six-party religious alliance regarding electoral symbol - “book”. The JUI-F provincial leadership, including Senator Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan and Shujaul Mulk, are actively participating in the election campaign for their candidate, which shows the party is in no mood to withdraw from the contest, which would definitely benefit the ANP candidate.

Likewise, the Pakistan People’s Party has not clarified its position, although two of its activists have submitted nomination papers for the by-elections. However, Gohar Ali Khan seems to be in a position to give a tough time to JI and ANP candidate in case the PPP does not pull out from the contest.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid while resolving its internal differences in Buner has taken a wise step when party chief and former federal minister Amir Muqam announced withdrawal in support of the JI candidate. Four of the PML-Q workers, including Sarzameen Khan, had submitted papers of the NA-28.

PAP chief Fanoos Gujar and PML-Nawaz contender Ali Sher Khan have also their supporters and vote bank in some parts of Buner; however, the real contest is expected between ANP’s Istiqlal Khan and JI’s Bakht Jehan Khan. Independent candidate Naushad Khan, who is a close relative of Bakht Jehan Khan, can affect the votes in Tor Warsak, the hometown of Bakht Jehan Khan.

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