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UPPER DIR, May 3: Traditional archrivals Pakistan People’s Party and Jamaat-i-Islami are again in for a close fight for the lone National Assembly seat (NA-33) in Upper Dir.

It is interesting to note that the candidates of both the parties Najmuddin Khan of PPP and JI’s Sahibzada Tariqullah are also long-time political adversaries. Najmuddin was cabinet member during Yousaf Raza Gilani’s government and has a long but chequered political career.

Tariqullah started his political career in 1993 when he contested election on a provincial assembly seat against Najmuddin’s father, Haji Amanullah Khan, a PML-N leader, and defeated him. However, later he was disqualified by the court as he had not met the condition of mandatory period of two years after retiring from Afghan Commissionerate. He faced Najmuddin Khan in by-election in 1996, but lost. In 1997, Tariqullah could not take part in the elections due to JI boycott.

He again faced Najmuddin in the local bodies’ elections for the district nazim slot in 2001 and 2005 and defeated him. This is the first time they are facing each other in the race for a National Assembly seat. Najmuddin had won the seat in 1990 and 2008 elections.

Both the parties have intensified electioneering in the district to gain support of voters. Jamaat held election rallies in Wari, Dir, Sheringal, Barawal and other areas which were addressed by JI chief Munawar Hassan, JI deputy chief Sirajul Haq and local leaders and candidates. JI is also holding corner meetings and reaching almost every door to mobilise the voters.

On the other hand, Najmuddin has also been spending time in Kohistan and other areas but is unable hold public meetings. He is relying on corner meetings and door-to-door campaign. He has also launched efforts to win over the disgruntled PPP workers.

He also received a series of setbacks as a few disgruntled PPP activists, most of them old and diehard, switched over to the rival JI. Also, there are serious differences within the party.

Anwar Khan, former MPA from Upper Dir, has fielded his own candidate Mohammad Amir Khan on NA-33 and PK-91 to dent Najmuddin’s support in the constituency. Observers believe that Tariqullah has an edge over Najmuddin but say that it will not be smooth sailing for him either.

Meanwhile, two-time union council nazim from Kotkay area of Upper Dir has been awarded PPP ticket on PK-93 Wari Dir 3. He is popular in the area and poses a serious challenge not only to Malik Bahram Khan of JI, but also to Tariqullah.

The other candidates who are contesting from NA-33 include ANP’s Naveed Khan, JUI-F’s Maulana Fazle Azim, PML-N’s Malik Mohammad Zeb, PTI’s Mohammad Nawaz Khan, PML-Q’s Umar Zeb Khan and QWP’s Farooq Ahmad.