PESHAWAR - With NA-25 constituency facing postponement of by-election for security fears, four national and provincial constituencies will go to by-polls today [Thursday] amid stringent security checks.
The four constituencies are set to witness a tough competition with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on one hand and Jamiat Ulema-Islam-Fazl, Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party on the other.
More than 75 candidates are trying their luck. They went door-to-door to strike a personal chord with the electorate and the peaceful atmosphere favoured them. Of these election contestants, 52 are up for four NA seats and 23, among them 10 independents, for four provincial assembly seats. In all, 400 polling stations have been set up for voting.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, said the postponement of by-election to NA-25 was a conspiracy against his party. JUI-F is supporting ANP's Ghulam Ahmad Bilour on NA-1, Peshawar, and Daud Khattak on NA-5, Nowshera. In return, ANP will back JUI-F's Maulana Attullah Darwaish on NA-13, Swabi, and Maulana Attaur Rehman on NA-27.
Similarly, Jamaat-e-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan are backing PTI candidates Gul Bacha on NA-1, Imran Khattak on NA-5, Aqibullah Khan on NA-13 and Amirullah on NA-27.
PTI chief Imran Khan vacated NA-1 after defeating Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of ANP in the May 11 general elections. This time, Bilour is facing PTI’s Gul Badsha. Apart from them, there are 10 more candidates, among them Samad Mursalin, a senior PTI leader who is contesting separately after developing differences with other party leaders. Ghulam Bilour may have an edge as he will be enjoying support of PPP. The former ruling party had withdrawn its candidate in favour of ANP.
Nevertheless, political pundits say a neck-and-neck contest is likely on NA-1 Peshawar. A total of 225 polling stations have been set up in the constituency. These include 115 for male and 109 for female voters while one is made for both. The number of registered voters is 320,581, among them 126,696 female voters.
In NA-5 Nowshera-I, ANP's Daud Khan Khattak, PTI's Dr Imran Khattak and four other candidates are facing each other. The NA-5 seat was vacated by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak. He is now pitting his son-in-law Imran Khattak against others backed by PPP which withdrew its candidate former MNA Tariq Khattak in favour of ANP. Undoubtedly, the position of PTI is equally strong for this National Assembly seat.
A total of 10 candidates are in the run for NA-13 Swabi-II constituency. The seat was vacated by provincial assembly speaker Asad Qaiser. This time, his brother Aqibullah will be competing from PTI platform against JUI-F’s formidable candidate Ataul Haq Darwesh. JUI-F is backed by ANP. Political observers say that an upset could not be ruled out when this constituency goes to by-poll.
In NA-27 Lakki Marwat, Attaur Rehman of JUI-F and retired colonel Amirullah of PTI are among 14 contestants. Amirullah is also enjoying support of Saifullah’s family. Chances are JUI-F's Attaur Rehman wins this seat which was vacated by party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Apart from by-elections on four seats of KPK Assembly, including PK-23 Mardan-I, PK-27 Mardan-V, PK-42 Hangu-I and PK-70 Bannu-I would also take place.
The constituencies of PK-23 Mardan-1 and PK-70 Bannu were vacated by former chief ministers Ameer Haider Hoti and Akram Khan Durrani, respectively, after retaining NA-9 and NA-24 seats. Imran Mohmand from PK-27 and Farid Khan from PK-42 lost their lives in terrorist attacks and resultantly the seats fell vacant.
Independent lawmaker Imran Mohmand was killed in a suicide attack at a funeral in Shergrah on June 17 that claimed 37 more lives and injured over 40. Similarly, PTI's MPA Farid Khan was gunned down by unidentified attackers in Hangu on June 3.
PTI's Umer Farooq will be competing ANP’s Haji Ahmed Khan Bahadur and Ikramullah Shahid of Muttahida Deeni Mahaz and some independents on PK-23 Mardan-1. Political observers hold the belief internal differences within PTI may benefit Ahmed Khan Bahadur.
It seems that contest is just between ANP and PTI as both the parties have carried out vigorous election campaigns. ANP is determined to retain this seat as PPP and JUI-F are throwing support behind its candidate Bahadur.
In PK-27-Mardan-V, an independent candidate Jamshed Khan Mohmand, who is the brother of assassinated lawmaker Imran Mohmand, is contesting against JI's Fazal Rabbani and JUI-F Zakaullah Khan. PTI is supporting JI candidate whereas Qaumi Watan Party is supporting Jamshed Mohmand. ANP, PPP and PML-N have also announced to back Jamshed. A tough fight is expected between Jamshed and Rabbani.
In PK-42 Hangu-I, some 10 candidates are in the race, including Shah Faisal Khan, brother of PTI former lawmaker Farid Khan. A tough contest is expected between independent candidates Maulana Zahir Shah, Shah Faisal and Sayed Hussaini. However, Faisal seems stronger after JUI-F candidate Mian Hussain Jalali’s withdrawal.
In PK-70-Bannu-I, a tough contest is expected between JUI-F’s Azam Khan Durrani and Malik Adnan Khan of PTI. Three more aspirants – Faridullah Khan, Muhammad Roshan and Mameezullah Khan – are also in the run. The seat fell vacant after former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani retained his NA seat. JUI-F may win this seat again.