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Nationalist sentiments dominate poll campaign in Waziristan districts

Updated July 18, 2019

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Intra-tribe divide is another factor to influence voters. — AFP/File
Intra-tribe divide is another factor to influence voters. — AFP/File

MIRAMSHAH/WANA: The pre-election political pulse in Waziristan belt (North and South tribal districts) apparently defies what has been traditionally considered a stronghold of religious players like JUI-F.

“In the wake of recent developments particularly the wave of social rights movement that swept through the rugged terrains, Waziristan now beats to sentiments dominated by nationalism,” said analysts and poll campaigners.

Even mainstream political force like PPP has cottoned on this fact to win July 20 elections for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in North and South Waziristan tribal districts. The surge in nationalist sentiments has put JUI-F candidates in hot water in all four constituencies in North and South Waziristan despite the fact that the party has a big network of its affiliated seminaries in both the merged districts.

Intra-tribe divide is another factor to influence voters

“Majority of the candidates either having affiliation with PPP, PTI, ANP or contesting polls independently are exploiting nationalist sentiments of the people,” said social activist Khalil Wazir, who resides in Miramshah.

He said that Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement had distanced itself from elections, but many candidates were showing their affiliations and loyalties with the movement to win polls.

One major development is that the candidates, whether those associated with the political parties or independents, have displayed restraint in their slogans that clearly sets them apart from the inflammatory rallying cries of PTM, even when they do advocate causes that the movement upheld, such as constitutional rights for tribesmen, rights over natural resources.

Electioneering is picking up momentum in both the tribal districts since the administrations lifted curfew and Section144. Candidates are taking out vehicular rallies and organising corner meetings in towns and rural areas.

Election Commission of Pakistan is set to hold first ever election for 16 seats of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in the newly merged tribal districts on July 20. Around 2,801,834 registered voters have the opportunity to cast their votes.

ECP has planned to set up one polling station in Bakakhel camp near Bannu to facilitate internally displaced voters to cast their vote.

A total of 39 candidates are in the race for two seats in North Waziristan where 320,177 voters including 109,521 female voters are eligible for casting their vote. For PK-111, 19 candidates are contesting polls while 20 candidates are contesting for PK-112.

Tough contest is expected among independent candidate Jamal Dawar, Mohammad Iqbal Khan of PTI, Qari Samiullah of JUI-F and independent Assadullah in PK-111. Situation in PK-112 is also very sketchy and independent candidate Mir Kalam may prove hard nut for Mufti Sidiqullah of JUI-F, Malik Aurangzeb of PTI and Malik Ashraf of ANP.

The adjacent South Waziristan tribal district is likely to witness close contest among independents, PTI, JUI-F, ANP and PPP. Total registered voters in South Waziristan are 386,829 including 149,060 females.

JUI-F has allotted ticket to Hafiz Isamud Din, son of slain MNA Maulana Merajud Din for PK-113. Isam’s main challengers are Afsar Khan of PTI, Najeebullah of PPP and Hayat Preghal, an independent candidate. ANP did not field candidate in Mehsud tribe dominated PK-113.

There is no fun fare in campaign in Mehsud area. Majority of the population is still residing in adjacent Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts owing to non-availability of basic amenities. This situation has forced candidates to organise campaign in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank.

PTI candidate Afsar Khan told Dawn that they would arrange transport to bring voters to polling stations from the settled districts to cast their vote. He said that voters had scattered that might affect turnout on the polling day.

The Ahmadzai Wazir tribe dominated PK-114 is bustling with election activities and candidates are running vigorous campaign. Streets in Wana Bazaar have been decorated with parties’ flags and banners. Lifting Section 144 has triggered more enthusiasm in the election campaign.

For PK-114, total 21 candidates are taking part in the polls. Rifts in PTI can divide its vote bank in Wana. Ajab Gul Wazir and Zubair Khan are contesting polls as independent candidates after PTI allotted ticket to Naseer Khan.

Candidates are playing nationalist card in their campaign. But intra-tribe divide has also become another factor which is being used by candidates to influence voters in Wana.

“Even candidates having affiliation with PTI and PPP are using nationalist card in their campaign to attract voters,” said Ameer Gul Wazir, political activist in Wana.

Close contest is expected among Naseer Khan of PTI, independent Ajab Gul Wazir, who is relative of detained MNA Ali Wazir, Maulana Salih Khan of JUI-F and Imran Mokhlis of PPP. Analysts say that PTI’s stance about detained MNAs may cause setback to its candidates.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2019