PESHAWAR: The by-poll in NA-4 constituency of the city is expected to be a defining contest for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as it would hint if the party would be able to come in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa once again after its term ends in 2018.
Although the seat was previously occupied by a PTI member, Gulzar Khan, uncertainty looms around the party regardless mainly due to two reasons: strength of rival candidates and the party’s reputation in the constituency.
Despite being in government, the PTI will have a tough competition from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the party is backed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), which was in coalition with PTI in the provincial government until recently.
On the other hand, PTI was not practically in power in the constituency even when Gulzar was alive as he was one of the disgruntled members of the party. Action was taken against him when he refused to submit his resignation at the time of the 2014 sit-in, which disarmed the MNA.
Five political parties have fielded their candidates for the by-poll that will take place in Peshawar on October 26.
Gulzar’s son, Asad Gulzar, is also on the list but on a ticket of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which he recently joined. PTI has fielded Arbab Amir, brother of Arbab Zahir who was elected on the seat on the ticket of Awami National Party. Amir had recently jumped ship from ANP.
From PML-N, Nasir Musazai will be contesting the by-poll. Musazai is backed by QWP and JUI-F that withdrew its candidate announcing support for PML-N.
ANP has fielded the former deputy speaker of KP Assembly, Khushdil Khan, while Jamaat-e-Islami will be sending Wasil Farooq Khan, who recently left ANP.
NA-4 comprises rural areas of Peshawar, including Hazar Khwani, Chamkani and Badhber. One side of the constituency connects to GT Road via Chamkani, while the other meets Pabbi, Nowshera. The area of Badbher connects the constituency with Khyber Agency, while the route of Mattani joins it to Darra Adam Khel in Frontier Region Kohat.
The geographic location of the constituency and terrorism incidents that have taken place there in the past are the reason why all the polling stations there have been declared sensitive while 182 have been marked as ‘most sensitive’.
The constituency is home to around 600,000 people who call it a hub of problems as gas and electricity load-shedding and lack of potable water and schools for girls have made their routine life difficult.
In the heart of the constituency is situated Sher Shah Suri Road where vehicles can be seen struggling their way through the rickety path around Phandu Chowk.
Moreover, there is a neighbourhood in the constituency, Ghareebabad, where water issues have forced locals to use hand pumps. The area neither has any tube wells nor is there a water pipeline installed there. Besides water woes, NA-4 also includes areas where people light up wood for heating purposes as there is a severe shortage of gas.
Before the big day
As the constituency is in a dire state, it is alleged the PTI started development work ahead of the by-poll to bag the maximum number of votes. Over 30 development schemes at a cost of millions are under way, with 15 part of the Annual Development Programme while others being under a special package.
The schemes include construction of roads, shifting tube wells on solar energy and sanitation work. Moreover, a decision has been taken to put 440 mosques of the constituency on solar energy before the by-poll. The areas where mosques have been decided to be solarised include Mera Kachori, Shaikh Muhammadi, Phandu, Sheikhan and Urmar.
However, the development work being stared ahead of the by-poll is said to be an illegal move.
Returning Officer Muhammad Ishaq Khan wrote to the chief secretary of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) informing him about the solarisation of mosques in the constituency.
Subsequently, the ECP took notice, but a statement issued from the Regional Information Office states that the work was not being carried out against the law.
It read that the gas schemes under way in NA-4 were approved on July 14, 2017, before Gulzar’s demise in August. This suggests development work in the constituency was not initiated as part of the ongoing campaign.