Grand fight for the heart of Peshawar

It looks like there will be a close contest between PTI and ANP in NA-31, writes Nader Khan

Grand fight for the heart of Peshawar
A tough contest is expected between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Awami National Party (ANP) on NA-31, as both parties claim they have the largest number of voters in this constituency after the delimitation. Meanwhile on provincial assembly seats, the PTI has replaced eight candidates out of 14 candidates and has fielded fresh faces in the 2018 general elections.

Those who submitted nomination papers for NA-31 included ANP’s senior leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Shaukat Ali of the PTI, Ziaullah Afridi of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Saddique Paracha of Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA).

If MMA manages to secure an alliance with any other political party, they will improve their position. Still, the PTI seems to have great support in this constituency, followed by ANP popular in some portions of this constituency since they were previously part of NA-01 where Bilour secured a huge number of votes in the by-elections.
NA-31 is situated in the middle of Peshawar and is one of the most densely populated constituencies of the city

PTI’s candidate for NA-31, Shaukat Ali, is a new player for the people of the area as he has previously not contested election from the PTI’s platform and will be trying out his luck on this newly-established constituency in Peshawar for the first time. Though Shaukat Ali is a new candidate, the area has a huge number of young PTI supporters. The emerging youth and newly-registered voters provide considerable vote bank for the party. These young voters can compare the peace in the city with the violent tenures of governments led by the PPP and the ANP, when there was a serious law and order crisis and no one was safe, and they may feel comfortable voting for the party which has ruled the province for the last five years.

NA-31 is situated in the middle of Peshawar and is one of the most densely populated constituencies of the city. Election in this constituency may boil down to a grand face-off between the ANP and the PTI, but no one can predict for certainty who will win.

Other political parties who have also stake include the PPP whose candidate stood third in general elections from NA-01 in 2013. However, this time the constituency does not consist entirely of NA-01 and also has new sections from other constituencies.

Bilour is a popular candidate in a traditional setting but does not have the support of young voters

On the other hand, ANP has little support of the youth and this would significantly reduce their vote bank in this new constituency. Still, Ghulam Bilour has contributed significantly in several uplift schemes and helped many people get their national identity cards. He is a popular candidate in a traditional setting. Those voting from areas under the previous NA-01 will remember his tenure as a National Assembly member and may vote on the basis of familiarity.

As the elections days approach, political manoeuvring and corner meetings are in full swing to muster the support of new party workers.

In provincial constituencies, the PTI will try eight new candidates which include two former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Arbab Waseem and Nasir Musazai, who recently joined the party for an election ticket.

Arbab Waseem was given a ticket for PK-67, Taimoor Saleem Khan Jaghra was given a ticket for PK-73, Pir Fida Mohammad is contesting for the PTI in PK-74, Malik Wajidullah Khan will compete on PTI’s ticket in PK-75, Asif Khan from PK-76, Kamran Khan Bangash from PK-77, Muhammad Irfan from PK-78 and Nasir Musazi from PK-79.

Musazi has tried his luck several times from NA-04 but repeatedly failed to secure the seat and in the end, he decided to change the party and joined the PTI to secure a seat in the provincial assembly.

Before joining the PTI, Musazai was all set to join ANP. However, he changed his mind at the last minute, even though a ceremony had been organised and ANP leadership was on their way to his house for the announcement.

Musazai says the PML-N leadership is not sincere with the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and not serious about resolving their basic problems. He says the people of his constituency had strongly urged him to join the PTI.

In the last election, Musazai contested against PTI’s Amir Ayub and secured 24,790 votes. Despite launching several gas and electricity schemes in the area Musazai failed to get a seat from the PML-N and in the end he decided to change his party.

Those MPAs who were elected in 2013  on PTI tickets include Ziaullah Afridi of PK-01, Shaukat Ali Yousafazi PK-02, Arif Yousaf from PK-04, Javed Naseem from PK-03, Yaseen Khalil from PK-05, Fazl Ilahi from PK-06, Mahmood Jan from PK-07, Arbab Jhandad Khan from PK-09 , Shah Farman from PK-10 and Muhammad Ashtiaq from PK-11.

Ziaullah Afridi, Arif Yousaf, Yaseen Khalil and Javed Naseem were ousted from the party during Senate elections and amidst allegations of corruption while former MPA Shaukat Yousafi was urged to contest from his home constituency in Shangla and he accepted the party decision.