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SWABI: A tough contest is expected among candidates of leading political parties in NA-18, Swabi-I, but no one can confidently foresee who will emerge victorious in the July 25 general elections.

The total number of votes in NA-18 is 449,036, including 252,515 men and 196,521 women. A total of 13 candidates, including six independents, have locked horns in the constituency.

Prominent among them are PTI’s Asad Qaisar, MMA’s Maulana Fazal Ali, ANP’s Mohammad Islam, PML-N’s Sajjad Khan and QWP’s Masood Jabbar.

In 2002 elections, Maulana Khalil Ahmad, a candidate of MMA, had won the seat, receiving 50,096 votes; ANP’s Mohammad Sadiq Khan with 19,471 votes was the runner-up.

In the 2008 polls, Pervez Khan Advocate of ANP unexpectedly won the seat because the constituency was not considered a strong area of the Red Shirt leaders. He received 26,603 votes followed by Mohammad Naeem of PPP who got 19,418 votes.

In 2013 elections, Mr Qaisar emerged victorious with 48,576 votes, followed by Attaul Haq Darvaish of JUI-F who secured 28,672 votes.However, after the election, the constituency was vacated by Mr Qaisar, opting for then PK-35, Swabi-V seat. Later, his brother Aqibullah Khan won the by-election.

The real contest is among Mr Qaisar, Mr Islam, Maulana Ali and Mr Sajjad.

Though Mr Qaisar enjoys strong position in Topi and some other areas which were part of then NA-13, Swabi-II, he has failed to give importance to union councils Saleem Khan, Maneri Payyan, Maneri Bala, Swabi Khas, Maneri Swabi, Panjpir and Saleem Khan as these UCs were not part of his constituency but were included after the delimitation.

The ANP ticket was awarded to Mr Islam after it was withdrawn from Shahnawaz Khan of Topi city, forcing him to jump into the fray as an independent, which will potentially harm Mr Islam’s position.

Fazal Ali of MMA is contesting the national assembly constituency for the first time. Attaul Haq Darvaish, the JUI-F district chief, was a strong candidate from this constituency because he was runner-up in both the 2013 elections and the by-election. However, he could not get the MMA ticket because Maulana Ali is close to the party chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Similarly, Sajjad Khan of PML-N, who was runner-up from then PK-35 in the previous three elections, is contesting election from national assembly constituency for the first time.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018