RESULTS for the first phase of the local bodies’ elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are out and the outcome in 46 out of the 64 tehsils declared so far has sent shock waves across the country’s political landscape.
The PTI that ruled KP for nearly eight and half years has ended up getting a bloody nose from no less a rival than the JUI-F whose leadership was the butt of jokes and snide remarks by the ruling party. The religious party, which received a body blow at the hands of the PTI in the last two elections, much like many other political parties including the ANP, has made a surprise comeback bagging the chairmanship and mayorship in 16 sub-districts, with the PTI trailing with just 12 slots.
In fact, together the opposition parties — ANP, PML-N, Jamaat-i-Islami, PPP-P — clinched 31 seats. Add the seven independents, and the figure jumps to 38. This is a huge number and should be cause for serious concern for the PTI which until very recently could rightly boast of being the only party that was twice returned to power in the north-western province.
Not only this, the PTI also lost in areas and cities where it had single-handedly defeated all the major political parties. For instance, in Peshawar, the citadel of political power, where the PTI had won five national and 11 provincial assembly seats in the last general elections, the ruling party has ended up with just one tehsil. Many prominent figures in the current government, both federal as well as provincial, have lost their native tehsils.
Surely, the PTI will do some deep soul-searching in the weeks ahead, but it cannot deny the impact of its poor economic policies, the price hike and the power and gas outages that have hit the common man hard — something that many in government have acknowledged. This is probably the major factor responsible for the PTI defeat in the first round of the local bodies polls.
Nepotism and favouritism in the award of party tickets at the expense of diehard workers, lack of an organisational structure at the lower tier and a complacent leadership are some of the other factors contributing to the PTI’s shock defeat in the hotly contested elections. The myth that the PTI is invincible has been broken and this should give some food for thought to the party leadership.
Like the PTI, the ANP too needs to look inward and probe its rather poor performance. The Pakhtun national party has been able to win only one seat from Peshawar and has lost all three seats in its birthplace and stronghold of Charsadda. With just six seats in hand, it hardly has any reason to rejoice. It needs to understand that it will have to reshape its narrative in order to enlist the support of an educated and social media-savvy youth in KP.
Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2021