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PESHAWAR, May 9: Against a substantial increase in the number of voters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there are some constituencies where the voter count has declined setting the stage for close electoral battles among traditional archrivals.

The constituencies where there are less registered voters in 2013 than 2008 include five national assembly constituencies and 11 constituencies of the provincial assembly with a majority belonging to Hazara division.

The reduction has occurred at a time when Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is going into the coming elections with 15.05 per cent more registered voters as compared to the last elections. A total of 12.266 million registered voters are eligible to vote in the coming Saturday elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Some moneyed candidates who don’t hesitate to apply wrong tactics to snatch electoral victory were involved in registering bogus votes in Peshawar’s national assembly constituency NA-1,” said Pakistan People’s Party’s leader Ayub Shah, when contacted.

Mr Shah was a PPP candidate in NA-1 in 2008 and ended up runner-up to Awami National Party’s Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who recorded his fourth electoral win from that constituency in the last elections, getting 44,200 votes.

There are a total of 318,150 registered voters in NA-1 for this May 11 elections, some 68,900 less registered voters than the 2008 general elections.

The drop has occurred after the Election Commission of Pakistan carried out an extensive exercise to update voters’ lists across the country. The other four national assembly constituencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the registered voters’ number has gone down include NA-18 Abbottabad-II, NA-20 Mansehra-I, NA-21 Mansehra-II, and NA-23 Kohistan – all of them in Hazara division.

Kohistan’s lone national assembly constituency has recorded a sharp decline in the number of registered voters, going into elections with 191,620 fewer registered voters this time than five years ago. The number of registered voters in Kohistan’s NA constituency has gone down from 317,734 voters in 2008 to 126,114 this year. The constituency, spread over a large mountainous terrain, had recorded 33.71 per cent voters’ turnout in the last elections.

PPP’s Mr Shah said that ECP deleted all those voters from NA-1 that were also registered as voters in other constituencies as well. “Similarly, the bogus voters have also been removed from the voters’ list,” said Mr Shah.

The verification of voters conducted by ECP resulted into considerable decrease in the number of female registered voters in Peshawar, Kohistan, Abbottabad, and Mansehra. In NA-1 there are 26,384 fewer registered female voters in the coming elections. Similarly, the registered female voters’ number in Kohistan has gone down by 43,510 voters.

Rival candidates of Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour on NA-1 are of the view that the correction of voters’ list would help them turn tables on ANP in May 11 elections.

“The decrease would cost ANP dearly not only in NA-1, but its candidates would also lose on the provincial constituencies from Peshawar where reduction in the registered voters’ number is massive,” Shabbir Ahmed Khan, a Jamaat-i-Islami leader contesting for NA-1.

PPP’s leader also thinks the same. He, however, said the decrease in the number of registered voters had tightened up the race in NA-1. “There are more candidates this time as all political parties have fielded their candidates for NA-1 as a result of which votes would split,” said Mr. Shah, adding “the gap between the votes polled by major political parties’ candidates would be thinner because of decrease in the number of registered voters.”

The number of registered voters in PK-3 has also declined sharply. The constituency has recorded a drop in registered voters from 168, 809 in 2008 to 105,710 in 2013, a decrease of 63,099 registered voters. The PK-2, Peshawar-II, has also recorded decrease where there are 25,512 fewer voters for the coming elections as compared to the last elections. PK-2 has a history of electing PPP’s candidates in the past.

Another provincial assembly constituency from Peshawar, PK-4, has 7,871 fewer registered voters this year. Among the other provincial assembly constituencies where the number of registered voters has gone down included PK-63 Kohistan-III, where there are 37,883 fewer voters this year; PK-58 Mansehra-VI with 33,101 fewer registered voters; PK-57 Mansehra-V has 10,095 fewer voters; PK-48 Abbottabad-V has recorded decrease in the registered voters by 3,108 voters; and PK-54 Mansehra-II will go into elections with 22,324 fewer registered voters.

For PPP’s Ayub Shah, the correction in the voters’ lists should be taken as an improvement in the system than a reflection of bad deeds committed by a few in the past. “Things would improve further with the passage of time,” said Mr. Shah, who is not contesting this time.

Many believe that decrease in the number of female registered voters reflected a trend. As, according to Sadeeq Chairman, a PPP leader from Peshawar, certain candidates manipulated women’s votes by misusing certain local customs to their advantage.