On February 8, 2024, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secured a resounding victory in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, marking a historic landslide triumph. Never before in the province's history have the people granted such a decisive mandate to a single party for the third consecutive time, surpassing past mandates by a considerable margin.
The PTI's sweeping success has effectively dismantled entrenched political dynasties across the region, ranging from the Maulanas in Dera Ismail Khan to the Bacha Khan family of Charsada. Notably, in Mardan, they have emerged victorious over the Hotis, while the Khattak family's influence in Nowshera has been significantly diminished. Even veteran politicians such as Aftab Khan Sherpao have fallen to the PTI's electoral prowess. Akram Khan Durrani, a former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), suffered a significant defeat in his political bastion of Bannu, losing his seat in the recent election.
PTI's influence has expanded into traditional strongholds of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the Hazara Division, consistently gaining more seats with each electoral cycle. This remarkable electoral performance underscores the PTI's growing popularity and the shifting political landscape in the province.
The PTI not only secured victories in the Peshawar valley and the northern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) but also made significant strides in the southern districts and the newly merged districts, formerly known as the federally administered tribal areas (FATA). Additionally, it has maintained its strong presence in the southern districts of Kohat, Bannu, Hangu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, and DI Khan.
In my opinion, Ali Amin Gandapur emerges as an exemplary candidate for the chief minister's office. His unwavering loyalty to the party since his inception, coupled with his affable demeanour and accessibility to party workers, earns him widespread admiration within party circles
The southern region has long grappled with underdevelopment. Areas such as Lakki Marwat, South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Tank, and DI Khan not only lag behind in terms of progress but have also become focal points of terrorism in recent times. These districts also harbour a deep sense of deprivation, feeling sidelined compared to the political families of the Peshawar valley. Historically, resources have been disproportionately allocated to the northern regions, exacerbating the disparity between the two areas. Despite their pressing needs, the federal government has neglected its duty to address this imbalance, refusing to allocate the mandated three percent of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award to the newly merged districts. Consequently, the burden of development and infrastructure upkeep has disproportionately fallen on the already strained resources of the southern districts, particularly impacting areas such as Bannu and DI Khan.
The spate of terrorist attacks in recent years has once again spotlighted the plight of the southern districts of KP. Situated in close proximity to the volatile Afghan border, these regions have become prime targets for extremist elements. It is imperative not only for the province's stability but also for the security of the entire nation that these areas experience development and progress. The spread of terrorism in these districts poses a significant threat, not just to KP but also to neighbouring provinces, amplifying the urgency of investing in their socio-economic advancement and security infrastructure. Failure to address the root causes of instability in the southern districts could potentially destabilise the entire region, underscoring the critical importance of prioritising their development and bolstering efforts to counter extremist threats.
In my opinion, Ali Amin Gandapur emerges as an exemplary candidate for the chief minister's office. His unwavering loyalty to the party since his inception, coupled with his affable demeanour and accessibility to party workers, earns him widespread admiration within party circles. Notably, his electoral victories, triumphing over formidable opponents like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), underscore his popularity and effectiveness as a politician.
Furthermore, Gandapur hails from DI Khan, a district of paramount importance for the food security of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His appointment as chief minister could potentially serve as a boon for the region, as he could channel resources towards critical projects such as the (Chashma Right Bank) Lift Canal, Tank-Zam Dam, Shaikh Haider Zam Dam, Daraban Zam Dam, Chowdwan Zam Dam — infrastructural endeavours crucial for both agricultural sustainability and overall development.
In conversations with locals and politicians from KP, a recurring grievance is the deprivation of the southern districts from their rightful share of the Indus River waters, which are vital for their sustenance and development. It is indeed lamentable that, over the years, Punjab has been accused of withholding these crucial resources, thereby exacerbating the socio-economic challenges faced by the southern regions of KP.
Moving forward, it is imperative that whichever party assumes power at the federal level takes decisive action to ensure equitable distribution of water resources in accordance with the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991. This accord stipulates fair allocation of water among the provinces, emphasising the need for transparency and cooperation in managing this invaluable resource.
Addressing this issue is not only a matter of justice for the people of KP but also essential for fostering harmony and stability across the country. Access to adequate water resources is fundamental to the prosperity and well-being of communities, and any hindrance in its fair distribution only perpetuates disparities and hinders progress.
Giving the office of chief minister to the South would not only garner favour from influential circles but also hold strategic significance in countering extremist elements. Allocating funds to the southern districts would not only stimulate economic growth but also contribute to immunising the youth against the allure of extremism, thereby easing the burden on the military in maintaining security. By prioritising development in DI Khan and other districts from the South, Gandapur could effectively address socio-economic grievances, thereby mitigating the risk of radicalisation and fostering stability in the region and beyond.