PESHAWAR: The 2023 general elections may seem to be a long way off but already in evidence is a renewed effort on part of political parties to cultivate and lure ‘electables’ into their folds – a trend that certain political observers attribute to the rising political temperatures in the country and the possibility that elections may be held sooner than later.

The phenomenon of weaning away electables – politicians with constituencies and huge resources to influence voters – from political parties is a trend that has long been part of the political culture in the country.

Its more recent manifestation was seen in 2018 when the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) enticed and absorbed many electables from rival political parties into its ranks and files changing the course and results of elections in its favour.

“With each passing day in the country, major political parties are luring influential personalities and turncoats into their folds in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said a leading political figure in the provincial capital, who didn’t want to be named.

Observers attribute development to rising political temperatures, possibility of early polls

His observation is borne out by the case of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, for instance. While the fence-sitters are seeking to enter the folds of leading political parties, the JUI-F seems desperate to rope more turncoats in.

Former federal minister Hamidullah Jan Afridi, who served as the environment minister in the government of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz (Aug 2004–Nov 2007), recently joined the JUI-F. He belongs to Khyber tribal district and has remained a member of the Senate in the past.

Three weeks ago, former provincial minister Barrister Abdullah from Charsadda district changed his political loyalties switching over from the Awami National Party to the JUI-F.

He has a strong political background – he is the nephew of Amir Khisro Khan, who won the provincial assembly seat on the Pakistan Peoples Party ticket against veteran politician late Khan Abdul Wali Khan of the ANP in the 1988 general elections.

Barrister Abdullah had joined the ANP and was given the portfolio of law and parliamentary affairs in the ANP-PPP coalition government during the 2008-2013 period. He lost the 2013 election to Sultan Mohammad Khan of the Qaumi Watan Party.

ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan’s son, Aimal Khan, was given the party’s ticket to contest his maiden election from his constituency that apparently paved the way for the departure of Barrister Abdullah from the ANP.

Prominent political-cum-religious figure from Karak district and former MNA Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz is set to quit the JUI (Sami group).

Spokesman for the JUI-F Abdul Jalil Jan said Maulana Abdul Aziz would join the party soon.

Another political personality from Karak and senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Rahmat Salam Khattak recently joined the JUI-F. He was very close to Sharifs.

Jalil Jan is optimistic that some ‘notable’ political personalities would join the JUI-F in near future.

Like JUI-F, the PML-N is also in contact with turncoats and winning horses in the province to bring them to its fold. The PML-N provincial general secretary Ikhtiar Wali told Dawn that two sitting MPAs and three former lawmakers of the ruling PTI would join the party.

“We have been approached by two sitting MPAs of PTI and they will formally join the PML-N before or after Peshawar rally,” he claimed.

“Politicians want to join the PML-N because of the past record of its impressive performance when in power.”

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a syndicate of 11 opposition parties, is scheduled to hold a rally in Peshawar on Nov 22.

Jalil Jan of the JUI-F said the party had approached Yasin Khalil, former PTI MPA from Peshawar, but he joined the ANP.

“The party has also approached veteran politician Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha from Malakand District but he hasn’t responded so far,” he said. Bacha has been the winning horse for the PPP during several elections.

Also on the list for JUI is Ziaullah Afridi of the PPP in Peshawar. Zia was a cabinet member during the last PTI government in the province but was expelled from the party on the charges of corruption.

Meanwhile, the PPP has made inroads into the Jamaat-i-Islami’s stronghold, Lower Dir, by enticing Muzzafar Said, traditionally a JI veteran, into its ranks.

Said was the finance minister during the previous PTI-JI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2013-18).

As for the ANP, it has lured Ghazanfar Ali from Peshawar into its folds. He was a PPP ticket holder for PK-70 in the 2018 general elections.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2020

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