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June 3, 2019

Tribal election: PTI faces rift after distribution of party tickets

National

June 3, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is facing rift after the distribution of party tickets among candidates from the tribal districts contesting the election for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seats scheduled for July 2.

The party decision has aroused criticism from some of the old party workers who complained that the PTI leadership ignored senior party people and their sacrifices for the party during distribution of tickets. They alleged that influential and blue-eyed people were preferred to "sincere" and "loyal" party workers in the tribal districts.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has released final list of the candidates and allotted election symbols to all the 297 candidates for 16 general seats in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). In the last general election, the PTI swept the polls by winning both seats of National Assembly from Khyber tribal region before merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

After merger, Khyber tribal district got three provincial assembly seats.

For the three provincial seats, the PTI has issued tickets to Shahid Shinwari for PK-105, Ameer Mohammad Khan, PK-106 and Zubair Afridi for PK-107. It seemed some of the party activists in Khyber district didn't expect this decision.

The decision shocked them and they have decided to lodge their protest by independently contesting election against PTI candidates. Some PTI workers have already launched election campaign as they were quite sure of getting party tickets.

According to PTI circles, the party had earlier committed to issue party ticket for PK-105 to an old worker, Sher Mat Khan.

He belongs to the Landikotal subdivision in Khyber and has reportedly close ties with Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri.

Noorul Haq is a dominant religious figure and enjoys support in his native Landikotal.

However, contrary to Sher Mat Khan's expectations, the party issued ticket to Shahid Shinwari belonging to Landikotal, but reportedly lacking political support compared to his opponents.

According to PTI sources, Shahid Shinwari had neither applied for the party ticket nor appeared before the panel of senior party leaders for an interview.

"Besides this, he didn't even pay Rs50,000 as donation to the party with application for the party ticket," a senior PTI leader told The News.

He claimed Shahid Shinwari was believed to have close ties with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan when he was sports minister during the previous government of Pervez Khattak.

He was president of the provincial Olympic Association when Mahmood Khan was sports minister.

To protest this decision, PTI disgruntled candidates including Sher Mat Khan and Abdur Razzaq have decided to contest election as independent candidates.

Abdur Razzaq is stated to be among the first few people who joined PTI in their native Landikotal. According to PTI sources, the party had also denied ticket to nephew of Noorul Haq Qadri.

"Anyone having support of Noorul Haq Qadri will win the election. And I am sure he will not support the PTI candidate there," a PTI leader in Peshawar claimed.

The sources said that Shahid Shinwari was a wealthy man running his businesses in and outside Pakistan. He joined the PTI during the dharna in Islamabad and got close to Imran Khan and other party leadership. There is another independent but resourceful candidate Shafiq Afridi contesting from PK-105.

He is the nephew of Shah Jee Gul Afridi.

Similarly, for PK-106 in Jamrud subdivision, the ticket has been issued to Ameer Khan.

Ameer Khan is the son of Zahir Shah Afridi, an influential landowner in the famous Karkhano Markets.

According to sources, though Zahir Shah is known for his wide circles, another influential businessman and former parliamentarian Shah Jee Gul is expected to give him tough time in sending his son Ameer Khan to the provincial assembly. Shah Jee Gul's Al-Haaj group is quite resourceful and is known for enjoying popular support in his native Jamrud.

Shah Jee Gul's son Bilawal Afridi is contenting as an independent candidate from PK-106. Another decision that reportedly hurt all the PTI circles was made in the Bara where an old party activist, Javed Afridi, was again denied party ticket and it was issued to an unknown young man, Zubair Khan Afridi for PK-107. He is stated be 25.

"Javed Afridi has been in PTI when Zubair Khan would probably be a two or three years old. He had done masters in International Relations from the University of Peshawar and could have excelled in other fields instead of wasting time in PTI," a senior PTI leader argued.

According to sources, when Javed Afridi appeared before a four-member panel, comprising Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Governor Shah Farman, Noorul Haq Qadri and Usman Dar, Shah Farman said it would be awkward to ask Javed Afridi to introduce himself.

Interestingly, he was even senior in the party than chief minister Mahmood Khan and Noorul Haq Qadri.

Javed Afridi, also known as ameer sahib among his fellow Afridi tribesmen as he has been associated with Tableeghi Jamaat since long, had applied for party ticket for the 2018 general election but was denied. And the party at that time preferred a little-known Iqbal Afridi to contest on PTI ticket. It was his luck that PTI's popularity enabled him to become member of the National Assembly first time in his life.

Another resourceful candidate, who recently quit PML-N and joined PTI, Shah Khalid Afridi, had also applied to the party ticket.

He is the nephew of known tribal businessman Haji Bahadar Khan, better known for their trademark HBK Group.

Their family is stated to be the highest taxpayer in KP.

According to sources, Javed Afridi and Shah Khalid Afridi belong to Bar Qambarkhel Afridi tribe and had a greater vote-bank in Bara. As per their opinion, anyone among them would have easily won the election had they been issued PTI ticket.

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