PK-95 Election: ANP, JI ready for battle

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Tuesday, 05 May 2015 17:17

PESHAWAR: With the race for PK-95 (Lower Dir-II) by-polls heating up, major political players have camped out in the mountainous region and are busy politicking to win the seat vacated by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq.

Leaders of JI and Awami National Party are engaged in corner meetings and traditional jirgas to promote their candidates for the May 7 by-election. JI has fielded its Lower Dir chief Izazul Mulk Afkari, whereas ANP has awarded a ticket to former MPA Haji Bahadar Khan.

Sirajul Haq, who vacated the seat in favour of a Senate berth, has also made time to address public meetings. At the same time, party stalwarts, including MPAs, have been involved in full-time campaigning since last month.

A shoo-in?

ANP candidate Haji Bahadar Khan’s campaign is being run by the party’s provincial parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak. Former chief minister and K-P ANP President Amir Haider Hoti has also visited the area and addressed a well-attended public meeting in the constituency.

ANP has also managed to muster solid support in the form of traditional rivals Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Pakistan Peoples Party.

Candidates of both parties announced their withdrawal in favour of the ANP candidate. Likewise, another candidate Liaqat Seemab, a JI dissident and district chief of its affiliated Shabab-e-Milli, also withdrew in favour of ANP’s candidate. Therefore, it would not be unjustified for ANP to feel quietly confident.

The rivals

However, politics is never that straightforward and JI is considered a very strong political force in Lower Dir. In fact, the majority of schoolteachers, who will play a key role in the polling process, are known for their links with the religious party.

The Pakistan Raah-e-Haq Party (former banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) has also fielded a candidate for the by-election. The candidate could manage to gain the sympathy of certain JUI factions in the area. However, JUI is not considered a constant ally of JI.

Winning odds

In the past, JI won this provincial assembly seat in 1985 by fielding a candidate as an independent because that particular election was on a non-party basis.

Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, of which JI was a part at the time, won seats in 1988 and 1990.

In 1993 and 1997, the constituency was clinched by ANP’s Haji Bahadar Khan who is now again in the running.

In the 2002 general polls, the seat went to Siraj and to ANP’s Haji Hidayatullah Khan in 2008. In the 2013 general polls, Siraj emerged victorious once again from this constituency and became a senior minister in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf-led coalition government.

With the JI now holding important ministries such as finance, local government, social welfare and Ushar and Zakat in the K-P government, the party can easily play an important role in the victory of its candidate.

During election meetings in Lower Dir, ANP parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak accused JI of utilising government resources for the by-election campaign; particularly the distribution of Zakat funds. However, neither the government nor the Election Commission of Pakistan made a clarification or issued responses in this respect.

PTI stalwarts and workers are also divided as some disgruntled party members have refused to support the JI and even fielded their own candidate. Some are even offering conditional support to the ANP candidate.

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