—File Photo

PESHAWAR: The candidature of the father and brother of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor for the upcoming general elections has elicited criticism from their rival candidates in Bajaur Agency.  

Unlike the members of the caretaker cabinets, including prime minister and chief ministers, there is no constitutional bar on provincial governors that their immediate family members will not be eligible for contesting elections.

However, the office of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor is altogether distinct from that of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, as it looks after directly the administrative affairs of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) on the behalf of President of Pakistan.

The father and brother of the incumbent governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Eng Shaukatullah, are running for the two National Assembly seats from Bajaur Agency in the upcoming general elections scheduled for May 11.

Governor Shaukatullah’s father Haji Bismillah Khan is a candidate for NA-43 while his brother Hidayatullah Khan is contesting elections from NA-44 constituency.

The rival candidates said that Shaukatullah’s presence in the Governor’s House could influence the election process.

Article 224 (1B) of the Constitution says: “Members of the caretaker cabinets including the caretaker prime minister and caretaker chief ministers and their immediate family members (spouse and children) shall not be eligible to contest the immediately following elections to such assemblies.”

Being an agent of the President, the governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa acts as chief executive of the tribal areas where the entire administrative machinery including political agents as well as Civil Secretariat Fata is directly answerable to him.

For NA-43 and NA-44, political agent has been notified as district returning officer whereas assistant political agents of Khar and Nawagai tehsils have been designated as returning officers. They are directly under the control of the governor and Civil Secretariat Fata.

Total 70 candidates including the woman candidate, Badam Zari, have filed nomination papers for these two constituencies. The candidates have already held in question the fairness and transparency of the upcoming polls in Bajaur Agency in the presence of Eng Shaukatullah in the gubernatorial office.

Sahibzada Haroon Rashid of Jamaat-i-Islami, who is contesting against Bismillah Khan from NA-43 constituency, accused Governor Shaukatullah of misusing his official position in favour of his father and brother.

“The Governor’s House has been converted into election office,” he alleged. The JI leader said that development schemes were kicked off and new projects announced in the area that could influence the poll’s results.

He said that on the directives of Governor Shaukatullah, local political administration had launched schemes in Khar, Mamond tehsils and other areas of the agency.

Mr Rashid said that Jamaat-i-Islami and candidates of other parties were collecting evidence of governor’s interference in the elections that would be submitted with Election Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan Tihrek-i-Insaf candidate for NA-43 Gul Zafar also expressed reservations over role of Governor’s House in the polls and alleged that there were reports about distribution of funds among voters.

“But I have yet to find credible evidences,” he said.

Pakistan Muslim League-N senior vice president Amir Muqam said that a big question mark was put on free and fair elections in Bajaur because of the governor.

A source in Khar, the headquarters of Bajaur, said that Governor Shaukatullah had issued chits to tribal elders, directing political agent to meet them and resolve their problems. The chit bearers according to the governor’s directives could call on the political agent anytime.

“About 30 elders were issued chits on official letter pad on one occasion,” the source said. Meeting with political agent or other officials in the administration is considered a pride in tribal society whether somebody issues is resolved or not.

According to another report, political administration few days ago released 50 people, who were detained in connection with attack on Levies post in Yousufabad area near Khar, on the recommendation of the governor’s father.

Sources said that work on development schemes had been expedited in the area on the directives of the governor. An official, however, denied governor’s involvement in Fata in general and Bajaur in particular.

The governor’s father, Haji Bismillah Khan, when contacted, confirmed his role in releasing 50 people arrested under Frontier Crimes Regulation. There was no harm in releasing people, he added.

He also said that development works had nothing to do with the elections and those schemes were approved when his son was minister for states and frontier regions.

“Being a governor he can meet anybody,” Mr Khan said and alleged that his rivals were making hue and cry to gain political mileage. “Let the opponents speak, we don’t care,” he added.

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