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Bilour springs back to win fifth time

Updated August 23, 2013

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PESHAWAR, Aug 22: Awami National Party leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour won the National Assembly seat, NA-1, in the by-election held on Thursday.

Mr Bilour was leading by getting 26,000 votes against his rival Gul Badshah of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf from the constituency till filing of this report. The constituency remained in spotlight in every election as besides its numerical position national leaders like Imran Khan and Benazir Bhutto contested for the seat.

Mr Bilour thanked the electorates for reposing confidence in him. “We have a history of political services and sacrifices for the sake of the people and democracy. Today’s election has shown that general polls were engineered,” a happy Bilour, surrounded by red-cap party workers, told reporters at his residence.

The ANP leader, who remained federal minister thrice, was defeated by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan by a margin of 66,000 votes in May 11 general elections. However, he emerged victorious against a weak PTI candidate.

The PTI candidate was alleged to be an Afghan national, however, Mr Bilour didn’t challenge his nationality because he knew that PTI workers were unhappy over allotment of ticket to Gul Badshah.

“The people will rectify their mistake and will vote for ANP,” he told party workers at one of the city’s polling stations. He said that he knew people repented their decision of voting for PTI.

On April 17, Mr Bilour survived a suicide attack that left 20 persons dead. His younger brother, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was assassinated in a similar attack in Dec 2012. The elderly politician stayed steadfast and undeterred by the loss of brother and imminent threats to his life. He led from the front to retain the seat in by-election.

In 1988, Bilour returned to National Assembly after losing to Aftab Khan Sherpao, the then leader of Pakistan people’s Party. He won the seat against Mian Mohammad Iqbal of Pakistan Muslim League in by-poll.

Mr Bilour, who became five-time winner of the NA-1 seat, campaigned hardly and roamed narrow streets of the city to reach his voters.

He defeated Benezir Bhutto from the same constituency. A popular politician, his lone son Shabbir Ahmed Bilour was killed in an election-related violence in 1997. The incident left harmful effects on his health. He appeared fragile but the political face of grief-stricken Bilour remained in spotlight.

Mr Bilour was federal minister for railways when he announced $100,000 on the head of an alleged blasphemer in Sept 2012. He didn’t take his words back despite pressure from several quarters.

“I don’t have any work to go abroad. This will save my dollars. I love to remain in Pakistan,” Bilour had told Dawn when he was banned from entering England. According to him, was communicated by the UK High Commission about ban on his entry to its country but he said that he didn’t care. “The ban is totally useless, since I am not a frequent visitor to that country,” he had said.

Backed by JUI-F and Pakistan People’s Party, Mr Bilour will be the second MNA of ANP. Ameer Haidar Khan Hoti, former chief minister, was the only member of the party in the National Assembly after May 11 elections.

Jubilant ANP workers thronged Bilour House and sprinkled rose petals on a smiling Bilour, who is called Haji Sahib by his life-long electorates.

“People have realised our services. We fought militants for the sake of our land and peace. As part of our old traditions, we will serve the country,” he told Dawn.