PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Sunday retained its National Assembly (NA-33) seat in Hangu in the by-election as its candidate Nadeem Khan defeated his close rival Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s Ubaidullah, with a margin of 4,430 votes.
According to unofficial results, Mr Khan secured 21,583 votes against 17,153 votes of the JUI-F candidate, in an election marred by low turnout. The NA-33 seat had fallen vacant with PTI MNA Khayal Zaman Orakzai’s death on Feb 14. The PTI then nominated his son, Nadeem Khan, for the by-poll.
However, with the recent mass resignations of 123 PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly amid a no-trust move against Imran Khan, party sources believed that the candidate representing Hangu may follow suit by resigning from the assembly after taking the oath.
It was surprising for many that while on the one hand, PTI members had quit the NA over the “Lettergate” controversy that the party claimed had led to the ouster of Imran’s government, but on the other hand, the same party’s candidate contested the by-polls for NA seat.
Polling for Hangu NA seat remains peaceful amid low turnout
On Twitter, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry posted that the party emerged victorious despite its workers knowing that Nadeem Khan would resign after taking oath. “There is no such precedence of trust in the leadership by the workers,” he said.
Observers said the voters of Hangu district showed little interest in the polling process due to multiple reasons, including political uncertainty in the country, hot weather condition and a day of fasting.
Unlike previous polls, no crowds were seen inside and outside polling stations. The polling process, which started at 8pm and continued till 5pm without any break, remained largely peaceful, with no report about any major incident of violence.
Talking to Dawn, an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said they had expected a low turnout in the polling, as voters, especially female voters, avoided coming out of their homes in the month of Ramazan.
Under an agreement among the locals, sources said, female voters were not allowed to vote in the Chapri Naryab area where a combined polling station was established at the government high school.
Sajjad Alam, an area resident, told Dawn that locals were unhappy over the treatment meted out to female voters during the local government elections held in the area in December 2021.
He complained that proper arrangements had not been made at the female polling stations in the local government elections.
Locals strictly observe male and female segregations in gatherings, but no such arrangements were made for the December elections, which was why the residents didn’t allow women to use their right to vote.
A polling staffer said 299 votes were polled including 30 by female out of total 1,900 registered votes at one of the polling stations established at Govt Degree College, Hangu, indicating voters’ fading interest in the exercise.
Political enthusiasm was also missing among supporters of the different political parties. The entire district had only a few polling camps. Even these camps wore deserted look with the presence of a small number of supporters.
Also, a local journalist, Farhan Khan, believed diminishing interest of the masses in the political process due to prevailing uncertainty in the country was behind the low turnout.
According to information shared by the ECP, 318,900 voters were eligible to cast their votes in the constituency. The commission had set up 210 polling stations. Of these, 55 were men-only, whereas 91 were combined polling stations.
The ECP had also declared 110 polling stations ‘sensitive’ and 77 ‘extremely sensitive’.
The Hangu district administration had made foolproof security plan and 4,500 security personnel were deployed to ensure peaceful holding of the by-election.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2022