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July 12, 2018

Heads of 7 political parties contesting polls from KP


July 12, 2018

PESHAWAR: Probably for the first time in contemporary history, seven heads of mainstream political parties of the country are contesting from different constituencies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

This shows they are giving importance to the voters of the otherwise neglected province. It also explains the growing political and electoral importance of KP.

Those flexing muscles for their tough contests in different districts of the province include chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shahbaz Sharif and chief of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rahman.

Besides, the ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq, head of the Awami National Party (ANP) Asfandyar Wali Khan and chairman of the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Aftab Sherpao are among the party heads contesting for National Assembly seats from their native districts.

The PTI chief will be contesting for the first time from NA-35 Bannu against former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani. Imran Khan is also contesting the election from Islamabad, Mianwali, Lahore and Karachi. He convincingly won from NA-1 Peshawar in the 2013 election, but vacated the seat later. Veteran ANP leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, who had lost to Imran, snatched the seat by defeating a weak PTI candidate in the by-election.

Shahbaz Sharif is contesting the election from NA-3 Swat where MMA has withdrawn its ticket from its candidate Maulana Hujjatullah in favour of the PMLN chief. Hujjatullah, who belongs to the JUI-F, however, has refused to withdraw and is now contesting as an independent candidate.

Shahbaz Sharif is also contesting the upcoming polls from Lahore, Karachi and Dera Ghazi Khan. He is facing Saleemur Rahman of PTI and Abdul Karim of ANP in NA-3.

The PML-N has created a sizeable vote-bank in Swat and Shangla districts in recent years after Amir Muqam took over as provincial president. Amir Muqam is contesting from, NA-2 as well as PK-2 and PK-4 in Swat. He has been claiming that both the prime minister and chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be elected from Swat. He is obviously referring to Shahbaz Sharif and Amir Muqam while making this prediction.

In the neighbouring Malakand district, the PPP has fielded its young chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from NA-8. Bilawal is also running for NA-246 Lyari and NA-200 Larkana.

In Malakand, Bakhtiar Maani of MMA and Junaid Akbar of PTI are his strong opponents.

Malakand was once a stronghold of PPP. However, the number of national and provincial assembly seats of the party started reducing from the area over the last few years.

His mother and late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had contested from NA-1 Peshawar in 1990 but was defeated by ANP’s Ghulam Ahmad Bilour.

A number of voters, however, believe that the heads of these political parties ignored the province in the past and only focused on Punjab and Sindh.

The voters still believe these leaders would vacate their KP seats if elected in the coming polls and instead prefer to keep their home constituencies.

MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman is contesting on two national assembly constituencies, NA-38 and NA-39, from his hometown Dera Ismail Khan.

He is facing former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi of PPP, Ali Amin Gandapur of PTI, former Senator Waqar Ahnad Khan who remained a Senator. In the other constituency, PTI’s Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh is one of his main electoral rival.

The southern districts of the province are considered to be the stronghold of the JUI-F, which is now part of MMA and its strongest component.

A large number of MNAs and MPAs of the MMA in 2002 were elected from the southern districts.

The chief minister of the province, Akram Khan Durrani, was elected from the southern Bannu district while Maulana Fazlur Rehman after his election was chosen opposition leader in the National Assembly.

The JI chief Sirajul Haq is contesting from NA-7 in his native Lower Dir district.

The JI has a solid vote-bank in the Upper Dir and Lower Dir districts. Sirajul Haq is a senator and has served twice as senior minister in the KP government.

Aftab Sherpao has been winning his seat, now NA-23, from Charsadda since 1988. He remained chief minister of the province as well as member of the federal cabinet in the past.

ANP chief Asfandyar Wali is facing Maulana Gohar Shah of MMA and PTI’s Fazal Mohammad Khan in the National Assembly constituency NA-24. He will try to regain this seat after losing it to Maulana Gohar Shah in the 2013 election.

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