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October 21, 2018

Close contest expected between PTI, ANP for PK-71


October 21, 2018

PESHAWAR: A close contest is expected between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Awami National Party (ANP) candidates in the by-election on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly constituency PK-71.

The PTI has awarded ticket to Zulfiqar Khan, the brother of Governor Shah Farman, while Salahuddin Mohmand is contesting the by-election on the ticket of ANP.

All opposition parties are supporting the ANP candidate to defeat the ruling PTI in the by-election.

Associated with gemstones business, Zulfiqar Khan is contesting the election for the first time. He is facing a tough time from Salahuddin Mohmand, who is a former PTI worker.

Salahuddin Mohmand had quit the PTI and joined the ANP after developing differences with the party. It is believed his candidature would affect Zulfiqar Khan’s vote-bank as Salahuddin Mohmand is likely to get some PTI votes as well.

Another dissident PTI worker, Dildar Khan, is also contesting the election in independent capacity after the party preferred Zulfiqar Khan for the award of the ticket.

Some PTI workers said that Dildar Khan’s decision to contest the by-election as independent candidate would affect the votes of Zulfiqar Khan.

Dildar Khan belongs to Matani area. He quit the ANP recently and joined the PTI. Sources said the PTI leaders held meetings with Dildar Khan to persuade him to withdraw from the race, but he refused.

The candidates of the opposition parties had secured over 27,000 votes in the July 25 general election on PK-71, which was won by Shah Farman by a margin of 8,107 votes. He had secured 17,309 votes. His rival, Sifatullah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz polled 9,202 votes.

Abdul Hafiz of ANP had bagged 7,500, Javed Khan of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) over 7,000, Amanullah of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had secured 4,088 and Qaumi Watan Party’s nominee polled over 700 votes in the July 25 general election on this constituency.

The opposition parties have withdrawn their candidates and announced to vote for Salahuddin Mohmand. This could lead to a surprising result if the voters adhered to the call of their respective party leadership and voted for the ANP candidate.

Zulfiqar Khan is settled along with his family in the posh Hayatabad locality in Peshawar and according to Fayyaz, a resident of the constituency, it would also have impact on the election.

He said the results of the recently held by-polls on other seats in the province had also raised the expectations of the opposition parties.

In the by-elections, the ruling PTI lost three out of nine provincial assembly seats. It also lost NA-35 Bannu to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)’s Zahid Akram Durrani. This seat was won by PTI chairman Imran Khan on July 25 by defeating Akram Durrani, the former chief minister and father of Zahid Akram Durrani.

However, the political pundits still consider Zulfiqar Khan a frontrunner in the competition.

Being the brother of Governor Shah Farman and the fact that PTI is in the government in the province and centre makes his position strong.

Another factor that could strengthen his position is the widely held belief that he would be appointed minister if he is elected in the by-election.

The fact that voters’ turnout remained low in by-polls compared to general election could also benefit Zulfiqar Khan in the by-election.

The total number of voters in the PK-71 constituency is 132,426, including 79,276 males and 53,150 females.

The numbers of votes polled in the constituency in the July 25 general elections were 48,568, including 37,285 men and 13,220 women. The turnout was 38.14 percent.

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