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CHITRAL, May 6: Despite All Pakistan Muslim League’s decision to boycott the May 11 elections, the candidate of the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s party for NA-32, Chitral, Shahzada Iftikharuddin, is learnt to have decided to stay in the field.

A tough contest is expected between him and Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of Jamaat-i-Islami.

Observers said had Musharraf been allowed to contest elections from Chitral, he would have bagged more than 70 per cent votes over the Lowari tunnel project.

They said closure of work on the project during the last five years of the PPP government had further endeared Musharraf to the people, who believed it was the former president, who could ensure completion of the project.

The observers said the sympathy vote of Musharraf would go to Shahzada Iftikhar, son of former MNA Shahzada Mohiuddin.

According to them, Maulana Chitrali is also popular with the local residents as he has long been campaigning for resumption of work on the Lowari tunnel project. He had launched a movement in early 2001 to press the military government for restart of work on the project, which was abandoned in 1977.

The JI candidate also enjoys the support of former PPP tehsil nazim Sartaj Ahmed Khan, who has developed differences with party nominee Salim Khan for PK-89.

The observers said the ‘Musharraf card’ was successfully used by the APML candidate, who was approaching the people with the plea that they should prove their loyalty to the former president by casting voting for him on May 11.

They said if APML persuaded its candidate to boycott the elections, then PPP’s Hakim Khan would be the main beneficiary of the situation.

In the constituency, Awami National Party has fielded Muzaffar Ali Shah Jan in the constituency and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf Abdul Lateef.

Traditionally, Chitral has been a stronghold of Pakistan People’s Party but this time around, its candidate, Hakeem Khan, faces opposition from within.The district has two provincial assembly seats, PK-89 (Lower Chitral) and PK-90 (upper Chitral).

According to observers, the Musharraf factor will not favour the APML candidates in the two constituencies as voters support Musharraf only and no one else for Lowari tunnel project.

In the PK-89 constituency, Maulana Sher Aziz of JI is likely to give a tough contest to independent candidate Sartaj Ahmad Khan, who leads a PPP splinter group, Maulana Abdur Rehman of JUI-F and Shahzada Khalid Parvaiz of APML.

In the PK-90 constituency, Syed Sardar Hussain of PPP, Rehmat Ghazi Khan of PTI and Maulana Hussain Ahmad of JUI-F are the main contestants.

JI stands a low chance of winning the seat for fielding a non-local candidate.

The observers said there was a greater likelihood that the voter turnout on May 11 would be higher than that of the 2008 elections.

They said the last elections saw a low turnout because they were held in winter season during which most people left the district to other parts of the country for employment. They added that the JI and PTI boycott also caused the turnout to be low in 2008.