ABBOTTABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s defeat in the recent PK-45, Abbottabad-IV by-election has exposed rifts in the party’s local chapter.
The PTI lost the election to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz though PTI chief Imran Khan addressed four public meetings in the constituency and announced opening of six colleges in the area and the grant of tehsil status to Bakot, and the provincial chief minister announced the Rs1 billion development package for the Galayat region.
Political observers insist the PTI, which rules the province, should take the defeat seriously as it shows the party is poorly managed and faces rifts.
According to them, the PTI fielded a weak candidate for the by-election angering many of its local leaders, who later distanced themselves from the election campaign of Ali Asghar Khan.
The observers believe anyone from among Abdur Rehman Abbasi, Raja Mubeen, Nazir Abbasi and Pir Azhar Bakoti could be a better choice.
PK-45 is the hometown of PML-N leader and current Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan, who had won elections of the provincial assembly seat for the constituency in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2008 and 2013 showing his strong vote bank.
Sardar Mehtab also won the local National Assembly seat in 2008, 1997 and 1993 but lost the seat in the 2013 elections.
He, however, won the provincial assembly seat and was made the opposition leader in the provincial assembly.
The frontline PML-N leader, however, quit the seat after his nomination as the provincial governor. He had served the province as the chief minister and remained a federal minister.
In the 2008 by-election, he surrendered the provincial assembly seat to retain the National Assembly seat. In the by-election, his son, Sardar Shamoon Mehtab, emerged as winner.
In the recent by-election, Sardar Mehtab’s cousin, Sardar Fareed, secured 28,252 votes to win the PK-45 seat against the 23,597 votes bagged by rival from PTI Ali Asghar Khan. The PML-N nominee, Sardar Fareed, got more votes than those secured by Sardar Mehtab during the 2013 elections showing the party has got stronger in the constituency.
According to political observers, Ali Asghar Khan, the PTI vice president in the district, stood little chance of winning the by-election for having no stakes in PK-45 as he lives in PK-44 constituency consisting of Abbottabad city and runs NGOs.
They insist the by-election results could have been different had PTI fielded old PTI guards, especially Abdur Rehman Abbasi, the runner-up in the 2013 election.
The observers say rivals successfully exploited the fielding of an ‘outsider’ in the by-election by the PTI during their campaigns. According to them, sitting PTI MNA from Abbottabad Dr Azhar Khan Jadoon had opposed the nomination of Ali Asghar Khan for PK-45 but his reservations were rejected by party chief Imran Khan.
As a result, Dr Jadoon ‘opted’ to go out of the country to avoid participation in the party candidate’s election campaign.
During the by-election, the district and divisional administrations remained neutral by and large as there came no complaints of their interference in the electoral process.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2014