THE by-poll in NA-4, easily won by the PTI, is a tribute ultimately to the fascinatingly diverse political culture of Peshawar and KP. It has space for everyone and a few more. The result reinforces some old and a few, more recent trends. That the PTI has retained the seat is not surprising. The party is a force to reckon with, especially in KP where it wields considerable influence by virtue of being in power. The PML-N came second, but its reliance on JUI-F for extra mileage at the polling booths did not have any visible effect, which is what had been predicted before Thursday’s vote. The ANP, a few votes shy of the PML-N’s total, is on the mend, just as on the other side of the ‘ideological’ divide the Jamaat-i-Islami’s popularity is on the decline. Among the new trends, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan took another giant step towards proving that it was a religious-political party with a presence and ambition across the country. Only last month, it had surprised everyone by doing better than many big parties in a Lahore by-election. In Peshawar, the Barelvi outfit again secured more ballots than the much-fancied JI and sent signals to everyone around that they ignored its growing presence at their own risk.
Lest we forget, the PPP also contested the NA-4 election with much fanfare. It came fourth. If the PPP’s vote tally was respectable in comparison to, say, its showing of late in Punjab, the result did nevertheless vindicate criticism of Mr Asif Ali Zardari’s thinking of putting the party’s fate in the hands of a few ‘electables’ of his choice. The PPP chose to have as its candidate the son of the MNA from the PTI whose death had necessitated the by-poll. It was a case of a desperate party partnering a ‘leftover electable’ at best — a man no other party wanted to field. The move paid the party and the chosen individual no dividends. On the other hand, the PTI’s winner in the election comes from a family that had traditionally done its politics from the ANP platform. Arbab Amir Ayub had only joined the Imran Khan camp in May this year and his victory in the sphere of pragmatic Pakistani politics confirmed his own prowess as well as the PTI’s status as the party to join for all those looking for power in the near future.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2017