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September 10, 2018

Clear edge for PTI’s Shaukat Yousafzai over PML-N’s Rishad Khan


September 10, 2018

PESHAWAR: Shaukat Ali Yousafzai deserves to win the by-election for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly constituency, PK-23 Shangla, being held today as he had won the seat in the July 25 general election and lost it due to no fault of his.

Contesting on the ticket of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), he had polled 17,399 votes to defeat Mohammad Rishad Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who secured 15,533 votes. He had clearly won, but the Election Commission declared his election null and void because less than 10 percent of the women voters cast their votes.

It ordered re-polling, but there is no guarantee that a higher number of women would vote this time even though the candidates and political parties have been making strenuous efforts this time to get more female voters to the polling stations. In fact, the Election Commission sent a strong message to the candidates and their parties that the election would be cancelled if women were stopped from voting.

PK-23 Shangla is the only constituency in the country where re-polling was ordered to meet the condition of at least 10 percent turnout of women voters.

Shaukat Ali Yousafzai is a former journalist who joined the PTI years ago and won a provincial assembly seat from Peshawar city in the 2013 general election. He owns a small Urdu newspaper.

He originally belongs to Shangla, where he also contested the 2013 general election along with Peshawar and polled 3,582 votes only.

Shaukat Ali Yousafzai briefly served as the information and health minister after the 2013 polls. He was sacked on the charge that his performance as minister was unsatisfactory. However, many felt the charge against him was more serious, but it wasn’t disclosed.

The 2013 contest in Shangla was won by PML-N’s Mohammad Rishad Khan while ANP’s Haji Said Fareen was the runner-up. Mutawakil Khan had stood third on that occasion.

The situation changed in the July 2018 polls as Shaukat Ali Yousafzai won the seat while Mohammad Rishad Khan was placed second. Mutawakil Khan, contesting this time on the ANP ticket, got 13,942 votes and was in the third spot. PPP’s Dr Afsarul Mulk was fourth with 9,636 votes. MMA’s Mohammad Yar was placed fifth with 5,922 votes.

In an interesting turn of events recently, ANP’s Haji Said Fareen led the party workers to rebel against his provincial party leadership that had announced support for PML-N’s Mohammad Rishad Khan in the re-polling taking place today. Haji Said Fareen announced support for PTI’s Shaukat Ali Yousafzai by making the argument that the PTI government in the province and centre would be better able to serve Shangla. He and his supporters said they made the decision for the sake of under-developed Shangla.

The PPP’s local unit led by Dr Afsarul Mulk also announced backing for the PTI candidate. He gave the same argument that Shangla needed the PTI government’s attention and development funds.

The Awami Workers Party (AWP), a small party led by Fanoos Gujjar, has also announced support for Shaukat Ali Yousafzai by making the same argument.

However, one common argument also advanced by the local leaders of ANP, PPP and AWP is their opposition to the PML-N for its failure to secure development funds for Shangla. They pointed out that PML-N leader Amir Muqam and his brother Dr Ibadullah along with Mohammad Rishad Khan have been winning past elections from Shangla, but were unable to deliver on their promises.

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