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QWP loses more than half its lawmakers in run-up to elections


May 20, 2018

PESHAWAR: Aftab Sherpao’s Qaumi Watan Party has lost more than half of its members in the provincial assembly in the run-up to the July 2018 general election, but the party leadership is upbeat that it would recover and do well in the polls.

Six of its 10 members MPAs have quit the QWP. The troubles for the party started during the Senate polls in March when some of its lawmakers failed to vote for the QWP candidate, Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli, amid reports that votes had been sold.

Among the QWP defectors is Gohar Nawaz Khan, who was elected as an independent candidate from Haripur district in the May 2013 general election and later joined the QWP. He started distancing himself from the QWP after his nephew Babar Nawaz Khan, son of slain provincial minister Akhtar Nawaz Khan, won election as an MNA in 2015 on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket from the NA-19 Haripur constituency. The family is now firmly with the PML-N.

The other five MPAs who recently quit the QWP include Sultan Mohammad Khan, who was elected from Charsadda district, Bakht Baidar Khan, the MPA from Lower Dir, Ibrar Hussain Tanoli from Mansehra, and Abdul Karim from Swabi. The list also includes Meraj Humayun Khan, also from Swabi and elected on one of the reserved seats for women.

There were different reasons that prompted the five lawmakers to part ways with the QWP. Sultan Mohammad Khan, a well-educated lawyer, and Abdul Karim, whose family has had a long association with the QWP, joined the PTI due to their belief that they stood better chances of victory in the coming polls from its platform. They apparently have been promised the PTI ticket, but old party activists are likely to challenge any such decision. In case they get PTI tickets, Sultan Mohammad and Abdul Karim would be pitted in the contest against ANP candidates, including ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan’s son Aimal Wali Khan fighting his first electoral battle in Charsadda.

Bakht Baidar, who was made a minister by QWP from its quota when it joined the PTI-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has joined the PPP for the same reason, though it is unclear if his new party has enough votes in his constituency to ensure his victory. Also, veteran PPP workers may not support award of party ticket to Bakht Baidar.

Ibrar Hussain Tanoli, who too was made a provincial minister before being sacked along with Bakht Baidar by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on unproven corruption charges, has joined the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). He was hoping to get the party ticket for contesting the coming polls, but the JI has now become part of the five-party, religio-political alliance, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), and the JUI-F too would now be seeking the MMA ticket for its nominee from this Mansehra constituency. Tanoli’s plans could fall by the wayside if he doesn’t get the MMA ticket.

The case of Meraj Humayun, who has been a social worker mostly doing work in the field of education, is different as she faced allegations of selling her vote in the Senate election both from the QWP and her new party, PTI. She was served show-cause notice by both parties, though she promptly issued denial.

The QWP, founded by Aftab Sherpao who twice served as chief minister during the PPP rule and once as federal interior minister when General Pervez Musharraf was in power, is now left with just four out of its 10 MPAs. They are Aftab Sherpao’s eldest son Sikandar Hayat Sherpao who is also provincial president of the QWP, the party’s central secretary general Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli, Arshad Umarzai and Khalid Khan. All except Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli, who won a reserved seat for women, were elected in the 2013 polls from the Sherpao’s native Charsadda district. Charsadda has been a traditional battleground in elections for the QWP, Awami National Party (ANP), Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islami-Fazl (JUI-F), and now Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

While conceding that his party has suffered the loss of some its lawmakers, QWP spokesman Tariq Khan argued that having fewer loyal and committed members was better than having a lot many who keep changing parties with the sole objective to win elections. “There is no ideology and principles left in politics. Politicians go with the tide and desert their parties not on the basis of political differences, but for the sake of power. Political parties too should think whether such people ought to be welcomed or discouraged,” he said.

According to Tariq Khan, the QWP has got many other candidates seeking the party ticket to contest from constituencies where the MPAs who abandoned it were elected. He claimed two to three aspirants for the QWP ticket in these constituencies have emerged even though the last date for filing applications is May 23.

In reply to a question, Tariq Khan said initial contacts have been established between the QWP and PML-N and also with the JUI-F at the local level in Charsadda despite the fact that it was too early to talk about likely electoral alliances for contesting the elections to be held in late July.

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