PESHAWAR, April 30: Political parties are electioneering with low confidence levels as they anticipate a low voter turnout in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on May 11 amid the thickening atmosphere of dread and fear.
Diehard supporters and candidates of different political parties, in their separate background interviews to Dawn, were sounded pessimistic about an improved voter turnout during the coming elections in the province compared to the last elections in 2008.“I don’t think Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be able to touch the voter turnout figures recorded in the 2008 elections,” said Furqan Ahmed, a Pakistan People’s Party loyalist from Peshawar city.
The supporters of liberal political parties based their lack of optimism on the latest terrorist attacks on their candidates’ election events in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, information secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Israrullah advocate holds a different view about an anticipated low turnout.
“The poor performance of Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party during their coalition government’s five-year term in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has dissuaded the general public,” said the JI leader, who is also the a candidate for Peshawar’s national assembly constituency NA-3.
His views are shared by some general voters.
“Why should I be casting vote after the previous government’s bad performance,” said Jumma Khan, a voter from Hazar Khawani area of Peshawar.
Similar views were expressed by half a dozen other voters, who were interviewed randomly at Khyber Bazaar, Peshawar.
“I won’t abstain from polling my vote because of the Taliban’s fear of attack,” said Hamidullah, a passerby. He said he was in fact not happy with the previous government.
Sadeeq Chairman, a PPP local leader from NA-1, Peshawar, said a general sense of dread prevailed among the electorates of the inner city, fearing attacks by Taliban on the polling day.
“It will be a big achievement if all political parties collectively manage to get 70,000 votes polled for the NA-1 contest,” said the PPP leader.
Voter turnout in NA-1 has always been dismal.
In the 2002 elections, of the total registered voters of over 233,000, some 28.72 per cent voters cast their ballots.
The percentage dipped to a new low in the 2008 elections when out of the total 387,083 voters, some 22.98 per cent polled their votes.
At the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa level, the province recorded a mere 33.54 per cent voter turnout in the 2008 elections when there were some 10.67 million voters across the province. The number of voters in the province has grown to 12.27 million for the May 11 elections.
An important ANP activist, who asked for not publishing his name, said a low voter turnout was expected due to the Taliban attacks.
“Other than most committed voters, not many people would like to take chances, particularly in the Peshawar city areas,” said the ANP man.
However, JI’s Israrullah said the fear factor was not at play in the rural areas of the province, where voters did not feel threatened.
“Bomb blasts are not a new phenomenon in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said the JI candidate, adding that the people in the rural were not deterred (by the attacks).
Nine of the 10 voters interviewed randomly by Dawn on Tuesday said they would not stop from going to their polling station out of fear, showing resilience.
“Death is the ultimate. It will come even when one is lying on the bed,” said bearded Hassan Garhi shop owner, running a small photo copying business. He said the fear of attacks would not deter him from going to his area polling station.
Amidst a dampened sense of caution among the political parties’ cadres, they are attaching their hops to their workers’ performance on the polling day.
“The success would largely depend on how active and experienced your polling day team is,” said the JI candidate.
PPP’s Saeeq Chairman also held the same viewpoint.
Israrullah said his election team had started formulating their elections day team, identifying ‘right workers’ for the ‘right job.’
Israrullah saw a ray of hope even amid the prevailing situation.
He said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was expected to record improvement in the number of women using their right to vote this coming election. He added that teams of JI female workers were visiting women voters in his constituency, connecting with them to cast vote in favour of JI.