KP local govt polls seem swinging away from PTI

Published December 20, 2021
PESHAWAR: A security woman checks the identity card of a voter at a polling station. — Shahbaz Butt / White Star
PESHAWAR: A security woman checks the identity card of a voter at a polling station. — Shahbaz Butt / White Star

• Unofficial, initial results show JUI-F leading on Peshawar mayor seat, other fronts
• ECP postpones polls in some areas after violence
• Bajaur suicide blast kills ANP workers; anti-merger mob attacks minister’s vehicle in Kohat; Karak clash leaves two dead

PESHAWAR: In the first local government elections since the merger of tribal districts with Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) appeared to be losing ground as Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) was leading on many fronts, including the one for the coveted post of Peshawar mayor, unofficial, initial results of the 17 district polls showed in the early hours of Monday morning.

The first phase of local government polls, marked by scattered incidents of violence and attacks that claimed five lives and destroyed some polling stations, was held on Sunday after a gap of six years.

With the unofficial results of mayor/chairman of the 63 tehsil councils being in early stages, JUI-F candidates were ahead of their rivals as the PTI faced setbacks in parts of the province, where the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamaat-i-Islami seemed to have regained strength. In Peshawar, according to initial, unofficial results, JUI-F candidates were leading in three of the seven councils, whereas the PTI and the ANP were ahead in two tehsils each.

The Election Commission of Pakistan, which set up 9,223 polling stations for 12.668 million registered voters, had to postpone the vote in some areas of the 17 districts due to disturbances, including a suicide blast in Bajaur, abduction of polling staff in Bannu, a clash in Karak and a mob attack on Minister Shibli Faraz’s vehicle in Kohat. However, owing to the decision of the ECP to hold the local government elections in two phases, overall arrangements were better than what had been witnessed during the 2015 polls.

In Swabi, the PTI faced a setback as provincial minister Shahram Tarakai’s uncle Baland Iqbal lost to ANP candidate Ghulam Haqqani in Razar Tehsil. JUI-F and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were leading in Tehsil Topi and Lahor whereas results of Swabi tehsil were delayed for unknown reasons. The JUI-F was also leading in two of the three tehsils of Charsadda district. In Mardan, ANP’s candidate was far ahead of his rivals for the mayor seat, while JUI-F was leading in Katlang and Takhbai tehsils. Results from Garhi Kapura and Rustam tehsils of Mardan were awaited.

In Nowshera, the native town of Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, his son Ishaq Khattak, was leading in one tehsil and ANP’s candidates were ahead in two other tehsils. In Haripur, PML-N candidates were ahead of their rivals in Khanpur and Ghazi tehsils whereas an independent candidate was leading in Haripur tehsil.

In Khyber, the newly formed Tehreek-i-Islahat Pakistan party was leading in Landi Kotal and Jamrud tehsil, while JUI-F was ahead of its rivals in tehsil Bara. In Bajaur, JUI-F and JI were leading in Khar and Nawagai tehsils, respectively. Also, the JUI-F was leading in Upper Mohmand and Khaweezai tehsils whereas ANP was in the lead in the lower Mohmand tehsil. In Bannu, two tehsils were dominated by the PTI whereas JUI-F and an independent candidate were leading in each of the other two tehsil councils. In Dera Ismail Khan, PTI, JI, JUI-F and PPP candidates were leading one seat each in four tehsils, while an independent was ahead on the fifth tehsil. In Lakki Marwat, independent candidates were leading in two tehsils whereas the JI candidate was ahead in the third tehsil.

According to the ECP, a total of 2,032 candidates had already been elected unopposed on VCNC seats, including 217 general councillors, 876 women, 285 peasants, 500 youth and 154 minority seats, in the 17 districts of KP.

In all, 12.668 million voters — seven million male and five and a half million female — were registered for the polls in the 17 KP districts namely Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Mardan, Charsadda, Hangu and Lakki Marwat. Of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas, local government elections were held for the first time in Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur districts.

In Bajaur’s Mamund tehsil, a suicide attack on a vehicle taking voters to a polling station left two ANP workers dead and five others wounded, District Police Officer Abdul Samad Khan said. The suicide bomber blew himself up near the vehicle in the Kamar Sar locality on Inayat Killey-Laghari road, close to the Afghan border, at around 12.40pm, the officer said.

In Kohat, federal Minister for Science and Information Technology Shibli Faraz who had arrived in Darra Adamkhel area to cast his vote came under attack during a protest against the merger of tribal areas with KP. The mob pelted the official vehicle of the minister with stones, injuring the driver, police said. The unruly mob also burned down polling stations in Jammu, Paya Jawaki, Shindhand and Ara Khel areas.

Holding black flags, the protesters raised slogans against the merger demanding restoration of previous status of the tribal areas.

While condemning the attack on the minister vehicle, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed ordered the KP chief secretary and the IGP to submit a report.

Also, the ECP postponed elections in Bakakhel tehsil of Bannu district, where unidentified men on the eve of polls abducted staff of five polling stations along with election material. A senior administration official told Dawn the ECP postponed the polling though the authorities managed to recover the abducted staff. The official said an FIR was registered and a three-member committee was formed to probe the incident and submit its report within a week.

In Faqirkhel area of Karak’s Takht Nasrti tehsil, poll-related violence left two people, cousins of PTI MNA Shahid Khattak, dead and three others critically wounded, officials said.

In Khyber district, polling was suspended in the remote Bazaar-Zakhakhel locality after a rocket exploded near a polling station. While no casualty was reported, local sources said, volunteers of the Bazaar-Zakhakhel peace committee using the incident as an excuse disrupted the polling by taking polling staff hostage for some time and destroying election material. They, however, later blamed one of the non-local candidates and his supporters responsible for the episode.

Anwarullah Khan in Bajaur, Abdul Sami Paracha in Kohat and Ibrahim Shinwari in Landi Kotal also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2021

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