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Peshawar

July 30, 2018

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Khattak claims he will be CM, but issue still undecided

PESHAWAR: Though Pervez Khattak is claiming that he has already been told by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s central leadership about retaining him as the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), it appears that the issue hasn’t been decided yet due to a host of reasons.

In fact, fate seems to have intervened and could scuttle Pervez Khattak’s chances of again becoming the chief minister. The PTI desperately needs to keep all the National Assembly seats won by its candidates to be able to form a stable federal government. Pervez Khattak could be asked to retain the National Assembly seat that he won from his native Nowshera and give up the two seats he secured in the KP Assembly to bolster the PTI’s strength at the centre. Perhaps he would not have faced this unwanted situation if he hadn’t won the National Assembly seat, NA-25.

Asad Qaiser, the former speaker of the National Assembly, is confronted with the same dilemma. He too won from the National Assembly constituency in his hometown Swabi along with a provincial assembly seat. Much against his wishes as he too is a candidate for the office of chief minister, he may also be asked to keep his National Assembly seat and give up the one in the provincial assembly. The PTI has won two-thirds majority in the KP Assembly and could even afford to lose a seat or two in the by-election on the seats to be vacated by those who won more than one seat.

If Pervez Khattak and Asad Qaiser keep their National Assembly seats and are shifted to the centre and given positions in the federal government, the third major candidate for the chief minister’s office, Mohammad Atif Khan, would have a clear path to attain the prized job. Already, his supporters are confidently claiming that he would be getting the job. A newly elected member of the provincial assembly said he was 80 percent confident that Atif Khan would be the next chief minister of the province.

In fact, Atif Khan too would have faced this dilemma if hadn’t narrowly lost the contest for the National Assembly from his native Mardan to Awami National Party (ANP)’s former chief minister Ameer Haider Hoti. Many PTI activists remarked in a lighter vein that Atif Khan may no longer be enthusiastic to win the National Assembly seat following a recount of votes because he has eyes firmly set on the job of chief minister. It may be within his grasp as he has also won a provincial assembly seat and has many admirers in the PTI high command, including Imran Khan who publicly praised his performance as the education minister in the previous PTI-led KP government.

While Pervez Khattak has publicly stated and told the media on record that his name has been finalized as the chief minister, Asad Qaiser and Atif Khan have made no such claim. Both have said the PTI leadership would make the decision on merit and they would accept it in the larger interest of the party.

Talking to The News, Asad Qaiser conceded that he was in the race for the chief minister’s office, but will abide by the party’s decision. Recalling his long association with Imran Khan, he said he joined the PTI in November 1996 and was committed to his leader’s vision for Pakistan.

Asad Qaiser reminded that he remained provincial president of the PTI for nine years and had a successful stint as speaker of the provincial assembly. “I was our provincial government’s trouble-shooter during all crises such as the terrorist attack on the Army Public School, the issue of KP’s rights and share in CPEC for which I filed a writ petition in the high court, the matter of Fata reforms and Afghan refugees,” he said.

The former speaker said he didn’t push his candidature for the chief minister’s job after the PTI victory in the 2013 general election in KP even though he had been initially sounded out by the party leadership. “I kept the party’s interest supreme and followed my leader’s instructions. I will do so again if a need arose,” he added.

Asad Qaiser said about 35 PTI MPAs visited Islamabad and met him to assure their support for him for the chief minister’s position. “I didn’t ask them to come. They expressed confidence in me. It is now up to the party leadership to decide the issue,” he said.

Atif Khan has been cautious in his interaction with the media and has refrained from publicly pushing his candidature for the chief minister’s office. Instead, he has been arguing that PTI Chairman Imran Khan would take the decision on merit after having first dealing with the issue of forming the party’s government in the centre and Punjab.

Is this the sign of his confidence that he is on course to eventually getting the coveted post of chief minister?

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