Where money talks, party loyalties get ignored

* PTI camp in the district is split over the choice of Pervaiz Khattak, Jehangir Tareen for the only NA seat * PML-N's Ibadullah Khan faces a tough contest this time as many voters are disgruntled over his influential brother Amir Muqam's neglect of the district in the last five years

SHANGLA

On a rainy afternoon in Puran village of Shangla, PML(N) provincial president and former adviser to the Prime Minister, Amir Muqam’s convoy accompanied with three vehicles of the police department is on the road for his brother Ibadullah Khan’s election campaign.

Ibadullah has been an MNA from the constituency which was represented by Muqam as well. The latter won the seat in 2002 election and joined the PML-Q. He contested and won the seat on the Q League’s ticket in 2008. In 2012, differences with PML-Q president Chaudary Shujat Hussain on the award of a Senate ticket led him to quit the party and join the PML-N.

In 2013 general election, when Muqam skipped the Shangla seat and opted for a seat in Swat, supporting his brother here, who won by securing 29,728 votes against Sadeedur Rehman of the ANP.

From PK23 (old 87) in 2013 provincial assembly elections, Mohammad Rashad Khan of PML-Q, who is considered an ally of Muqam, secured 15,300 votes, while ANP candidate Said Fareen got 10,500 votes.

From PK 24(old 88), Abdul Munim Khan, an independent candidate, secured 10,494 votes while the PML-N candidate Fazlullah Khan got 10,267 votes. Abdul Munim later joined the PTI and served as the adviser to the Chief Minister on tourism. In 2017, JUI-F candidate Sher Alam filed a petition against him on ground that he violated the code of conduct of the Election Commission of Pakistan by contesting the 2013 election just two days after his resignation from government service. After inquiry, Munim was disqualified.

For 2018 elections, the contest for the NA seat will be between Ibadullah Khan and Waqar Ahmad Khan of PTI, Amir Sultan of MMA, Hamid Iqbal Khan of PPP and Bakht Naseeb Khan of the Awami Workers Party (AWP).

Many PML-N workers in Shangla are not satisfied with Amir Muqam and Ibadulllah Khan claiming that they spent most of their time in the past five years in Islamabad. Scores of people have left the party due to its ‘misplaced’ priorities and neglect of the district where no mega development project was initiated.

Raza Shah, a senior journalist and political observer from the Alpuri area, believes that Amir Muqam and his brother didn’t deliver much for the voters of the area, the former got several mega projects for Swat.

Among Ibadullah Khan’s major competitors, Amir Sultan of the MMA comes from the Gujjar clan and enjoys a rich vote bank based on clan loyalties. In local bodies election, he had lost to Amir Muqam’s son Niaz Khan by a mere 40 votes.

PTI is divided into two camps in Shangla: one is led by Shaukat Yousafzai and the other by Abdul Munim. For the distribution of tickets in NA 10 Shangla, the party ignored its old associate Nawaz Mahmood, who has a 21-year association with the party, awarding the ticket to Waqar Ahmad Khan instead. Waqar joined PTI in 2014 after quitting PMLN. He contested the 2008 election from PMLN securing only 2,900 votes.

A journalist from Shangla said that Waqar, a wealthy businessman, was picked over Mahmood because he was being backed by Abdul Munim. He said that the tickets distribution process was overseen by former CM Parvez Khattak and party’s general secretary Jehangir Tareen who paid particular attention to applicants’ financial background.

Shangla will send representatives to the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa provincial assembly: PK23 and PK24.

From PK 23, Shaukat Yousafzai of PTI is a strong contender. Others in the contest are PPP’s Afsar-ul-Mulk, a former MPA; Rashad Khan of the PMLN, Advocate Mutawakil of the ANP; and Mohammad Yar of MMA. Shaukat Yousafzai contested from PK 23 in 2o13 election securing only 3,582 against Rashad Khan. But this time he has some development works to his credit so he is expected to put up a tough fight. ANP ignored its ideological worker Said Fareen, who secured 10,500 votes in the previous election, awarding its ticket to Advocate Mutawakil who recently left the QWP.

In PK24, main contenders are Abdul Maula from PTI, brother of the disqualified MPA Abdul Munim; Fazlullah of PML-N; Faisal Zeb of ANP and Nasrullah of the AWP. Here too, the PTI opted for a recent recruit, in this case from the JUI-F, ignoring Akhtar Ali Chittan, whose association with the party dates back to 1999.

Regarding the PTI government’s performance from 2013 to 2018, Raza Shah said that the scope of reforms in education and health sectors was quite limited, insisting that improvements were seen only in terms of attendance of staff.

Anwar Khan, who owns a small tea stall in Alpori Bazaar and is an active worker of the PPP even at the age of 75, says, “we didn’t find any leader after [Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto. That is why we’re facing so many crises.” Recalling his memories from the 1970s, he adds, “I still remember the speech delivered by Bhutto when he visited Shangla decades ago. My first ever vote went to the PPP. I still follow Bhutto and want to cast my vote to the PPP candidate, but I’m disappointed on hearing rumours that in Shangla PPP is going into a seat adjustment agreement with the PML-N and as a result it will support PML-N on NA seat, while PML-N will support Afsar-ul-Mulk on provincial seat.”

Senior PPP leadership denied the impression that they were entering into a seat adjustment agreement with the PML-N.

Published in Daily Times, July 24th  2018.