PESHAWAR: The National Assembly constituency, NA-4 Peshawar, is for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) what NA-120 Lahore was for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in last month’s by-election.

Polling for the by-election will be held on Oct 26.

The seat fell vacant after the death of PTI’s dissident MNA, Gulzar Khan.

The PTI knows that the vote would be a verdict on its four-year rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, therefore, losing the election would not only be demoralising but would also give a boost to its political foes, waiting eagerly to regain their lost territory.

For the PML-N, it would mean a lot should it win the by-poll in this hotly contested constituency. The PML-N’s win would belie Imran Khan’s claims about a “Naya Pakhtunkhwa” and may herald the reversal of its political fortune in the province.

Not surprisingly, therefore, both parties have thrown their full political might and resources into the contest. Both have pumped massive federal and provincial funds into NA-4 for launching new projects, or to complete the ongoing ones before schedule.

The people living in this constituency have never been so lucky as the PTI has provincial funds at its disposal for developmental works while the PML-N leaders, especially Adviser to the Prime Minister Ameer Muqam, are drawing funds from the federal kitty to win over the voters.

Besides the PML-N and PTI, the Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah have also fielded their candidates, but they stand little chance of winning the by-election.

The NA-4 constituency consists of 26 local bodies wards. The PTI faces a tough fight from either the PML-N or the Awami National Party in most wards. But there are a few wards where the ANP and PML-N are likely to be the main rivals. The PPP and the Jamaat have pockets of support here and there.

In short, the NA-120 and NA-4 by-elections have quite a few similarities and pose almost identical questions. With the general election just a few months away, the NA-4 by-election might indicate political and electoral trends.

Test for ANP

For the ANP, the by-election will tell whether or not it can reclaim its seat or narrow down the margin to such a degree that observers sit up and start taking it seriously for next year’s elections.

Peshawar consists of four National Assembly and 11 provincial assembly seats. In the 2013 general election, the PTI had swept all the four NA seats and 10 of the 11 provincial assembly seats.

However, when Imran Khan vacated the NA-1 seat (Peshawar city), Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the ANP won it in the by-election months after the installation of the PTI government in KP.

The PTI had won the NA-4 seat in 2013 by a big margin of 34,722 votes. The party’s candidate Gulzar Khan had received 55,134 votes while the runner-up, Nasir Khan Mosazai of the PML-N, got 20,412. The Jamaat’s Sabir Hussain Awan came third with 16,493 votes.

Some of the PTI’s big wigs belong to this constituency. So the stakes are high for all.

Shah Farman has two portfolios in the provincial cabinet, District Nazim Mohammad Asim Khan, adviser to the chief minister on environment Ishtiaq Umar and MPA Fazl Ilahi belong to NA-4.

Since the Tehreek-i-Insaf is just six months away from completing its tenure, the by-election will prove where it stands in terms of popularity, said a senior journalist. “It is sort of a performance evaluation for the PTI,” he observed.

The installation of power transformers, new transmission lines and connecting consumers with feeders of their choice is a common practice these days in NA-4. Not only is laying of gas pipelines in full swing, consumers have also seen a sharp drop in electricity outages.

On its part, the PTI has focused on the construction and repair of roads, streets, drains, tube-wells and installation of solar panels in mosques for generating electricity.

The party has also unveiled a plan to rehabilitate a dry canal passing through NA-4 for irrigating a large chunk of barren land.

The total number of registered voters in the constituency is 397,952 – 235,127 men and 162,825 women. There will be 269 polling stations, with 837 polling booths.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017

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