BAJAUR/DERA ISMAIL KHAN: The apparently strong position of independent candidate Mubarak Zeb Khan threatens the PTI nominees’ victory prospects on both the national and provincial assembly seats in the Sunday’s by-election in Bajaur tribal district, sources in the party’s local chapter and political observers said on Friday.

They said the differences emerged after Mubarak Zeb, the younger brother of slain PTI leader Rehan Zeb Khan, who was killed in an armed attack on January 31 during his election campaign for NA-8 and PK22 in the February 8 general elections, decided to take part in the by-election as independent on both the seats after the PTI parliamentary board ignored him in the allocation of ticket.

The decision has split the PTI into two groups. The party had won all the three seats of the provincial assembly in the district in the general elections.

Sources told Dawn that Mubarak Zeb’s position was strong as majority of workers were supporting him, threatening the prospects of Gul Zafar Khan and Gul Dad Khan, who are aspiring for NA-8 and PK-22, respectively.

The sources said both the PTI candidates had tried to get Mr Zeb withdraw from the election race, but he refused to do so.

They said most of PTI leaders, including Nawagai tehsil council chairman Dr Khalilur Rahman, were now supporting Mubarak Zeb in the by-election.

According to observers, the recent impressive public gatherings of Mubarak Zeb showed he would give tough time to PTI contestants on both the seats.

Meanwhile, the Dera’s NA-44 constituency, where the by-election is going to be held on Sunday, consists of 57 village and 129 neighbourhood councils. It has a total of 396,661 registered voters, including 185,629 women.

As many as 358 polling stations, including 126 for men, 115 for women and 117 combined, have been established with a total of 1,172 polling booths, including 635 for men and 537 women.

The front-runners include Sardar Faisal Amin Khan Gandapur, the brother of Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and the joint candidate of Sunni Ittehad Council and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf; and Pakistan Peoples Party’s Abdul Rasheed Kundi, who is also uncle of PPP central information secretary Faisal Karim Khan Kundi and MPA Ahmed Karim Khan Kundi.

Other candidates include Mohammad Ejaz Awan of Jamaat-i-Islami, Zameer Hussain alias Roshan Zameer Laghari of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Messiah Party’s Amber Nawaz Malik Advocate, independent Sheikh Mohammad Yaqub, who is former MNA, and Pakistan Nazriyati Council’s Mohammad Fawad.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl has boycotted the by-election.

District election commissioner Abdul Rauf said preparations for the by-election had been completed.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2024

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