What accounts for the party’s abysmal electoral performance in the general elections? Here are some reasons
Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP)’s poor show in 2018 general election couldn’t have been worse; it was already abysmal! In the National Assembly, the party couldn’t win any seat. In Balochistan Assembly, it won only a single seat. The party has officially rejected the election results believing its mandate was stolen. What accounts for the party’s abysmal electoral performance?
PkMAP’s abysmal performance at polls owes to its poor service delivery combined with politics of pragmatism; nepotism and parochial tribal attitudes. These factors left common workers disappointed and rendered the party’s student body and the overall organisational setup too dysfunctional to run any meaningful election campaign.
PkMAP, like any other party that comes into power on rising expectations of masses, could not deliver to public satisfaction. In 2013, PkMAP, capitalising on public weariness from JUI-F that had ruled the Pashtun belt of Balochistan since 2002 to 2013, won 14 and 4 seats in provincial and national assemblies respectively. The 2013 provincial coalition government comprising National Party, PkMAP and PML-N made better contribution in the realm of education--from primary to middle to high school--than preceding governments in terms of merit based recruitment, significant allocation of money and monitoring. Higher education, health, water availability, agriculture, job creation and quick impact projects, the likes of metro bus in Punjab, were either neglected or completely absent from government priority.
Many of the ideological voters felt betrayed. Out of power, the party kept mobilising its members for the carving out of a new province -- Janobi Pashtunkhwa -- from Balochistan’s Pashtun majority areas. In power, as after 2013 election, the party did nothing to deliver on the count. Yet in another case in 2013-14, an allegation was leveled against a few senior officeholders of the party for being awarded with contract of Chaman portion of the 11-foot-deep and 14-foot-wide trench that ran 1,100 km long along Pak-Afghan border. How unsubstantiated the accusation might have been, ideological workers became wary of the party’s nationalistic credentials as the party kept mum on delineation of Pak-Afghan border, which Pashtun nationalists have invariably dubbed as ‘colonial imposition’ that has divided Pashtuns since Durand Line agreement of Nov 1893.
Similarly, before election, one of the distinct features of PkMAP’s public gatherings and meetings was its anti-Punjab rhetoric, which almost ceased to exist once the party became allied with PML-N both at the centre and provincial levels. Consequently, ideological workers were sidelined, leaving ground open to selfish lot of the party.
Nepotism triumphed over comradeship. For many among Pashtuns, PkMAP’s upper echelons used government for personal and familial enrichment. To what extent the authority was used for the making of fortune is beyond the scope of this piece; officeholders in the party, especially its chairman came under severe censure for allotting government positions to their immediate relatives ranging from brothers to cousins at the expense of party veterans.
In one such instance, Mehmood Khan Achakzai overruled party’s decision to suggest the name of Akram Shah -- party’s central General Secretary -- for Balochistan governorship and instead put forward the name of his own brother Muhammad Khan Achakzai, the incumbent governor of Balochistan. The more the chairman tried to justify his decision citing how his octogenarian brother, never a political worker, was not corrupt, educated and spoke good English, the more he alienated party workers who would find the governor as arrogant, disrespectful and unforthcoming.
The fight for governorship virtually divided the party into two main groups, one led by its chairman and the other by provincial president of Balochistan chapter. Party workers, voters and common Pashtuns became victims of intraparty divisions hence left dejected and disappointed. Each side accused the other of not facilitating party workers from the other side of the divide.
PkMAP’s multiple divisions, overlapping and cutting across various lines, defied any definite description. The clash pitted the chairman against the party’s provincial president, elements from Achakzai tribe against their Kakar equivalent, ideological workers against pragmatist and locals against non-locals. Use of abusive, insolent and derogatory language and mudslinging became an open secret in the party.
Although claiming to be a nationalist party, PkMAP has still a long way to go to overcome narrow tribal jealousies. On record, Mehmood Khan Achakzai rarely, if ever, raised the issue of negligence of western route of CPEC. To Pashtuns’ dismay, in a December 2016 interview with Voice of America, the PkMAP chief said that he was satisfied with the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s guarantees with regards to CPEC projects on western route. On the other hand, Senator Usman Kakar, hardly, if ever, missed any opportunity to raise the issue of alleged Pashtun exclusion from the corridor. One opinion is that if successfully executed, western route of CPEC, with all its attendant advantages, will hugely benefit Kakar tribe in the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan, a development not looked with favour on by certain elements in PkMAP, the opinion goes so.
Intraparty fight sapped party workers of its energies. In University of Balochistan, Government Science College Quetta and Bolan Medical College University, though defying tribal lines, Pashtun Student Organization (PSO), the student wing of PkMAP, ran two parallel student bodies each representing chairman of the party and its provincial president. Similarly, unlike in 2013, the party could not run an organised election campaign this time.
It was against the backdrop of disagreement, discord and division that PkMAP headed to 2018 election with its organisation in a state of disarray. In some constituencies, voters from two groups even did not vote for the party candidate if he happened to be from the opposite group. Likewise, in some five constituencies, candidates belonging to PkMAP reportedly contested against each other, driving the final nail in the party’s coffin to stage any serious fight on the election day.
PkMAP’s bigwigs need serious soul-searching. Deep in their hearts, they know that their defeat was orchestrated by electorates other than some ‘aliens’. They just need to listen to their conscience that reasons for their failure are from within than without!