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ANP regains its stronghold

February 19, 2008

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PESHAWAR, Feb 18: The Pushtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) has emerged as the largest single party in the NWFP assembly, followed in strength by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which has virtually relegated the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) to fourth position in Monday’s general election.

According to preliminary, unofficial results, the ANP won 29 seats in the NWFP assembly while the PPP bagged 14. With a collective number of 20 seats, it is the independents — some of whom have past party affiliations — who have emerged as the second largest group in the assembly. Most of the independent candidates come from the now defunct Hazara division.

At the time of filing of this report, the results from eight provincial assembly constituencies were awaited while elections on three seats have been postponed.

The JUI-F which contested the election with its favourite symbol of the book under the MMA banner, managed to get merely 12 seats, most of them from the southern districts of the province. The PPP Sherpao won five seats but may improve its tally by another two, if two independents candidates who were formerly associated with it rejoin the party.

The PML-N has fared comparatively well vis-à-vis the PML-Q. The Nawaz league clinched five seats, four from Hazara and the fifth from Lakki Marwat.

The PML-Q posted a miserable tally of three seats, all of them from Hazara.

Polling got off to a poor start in the morning largely due to insecurity prevailing in the wake of recent blasts and suicide bombings. The insecurity had been exacerbated by the government which had declared 18 of the 24 districts ‘sensitive’. However, things improved considerably in the afternoon. Even in the restive Swat district that saw four bombings on Monday, voting continued, albeit with a very low turnout.

By and large, the results reflected the political assessments made by the ANP and the PPP, both of which were staging a comeback after suffering a shocking defeat earlier at the hands of the six-party religious alliance, the MMA.

“The results clearly indicate that politics in the NWFP is returning to form,” said one political analyst. The ANP appears to have regained its lost territory in its former strongholds of Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan and Swabi. It has surprisingly won all the seats in the troubled Swat region as well as the adjoining Buner district.

The PPP too has won most of its seats from Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Malakand in the former strongholds of the Jamaat-i-Islami.

The Jamaat-i-Islami, led by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, has boycotted the elections.

Interestingly, the contest mainly remained confined between the ANP and the PPP, making them straight rivals in most districts.

The voters’ mood in the provincial arena was also reflected in the National Assembly. The ANP has won nine seats with the PPP winning eight. The PML-Q won five seats, the PML-N three and the MMA three seats, according to unofficial results.

The MMA won 29 of the 35 seats last time round.

The PPP-Sherpao’s leader and former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao retained his National Assembly seat while three seats went to independent candidates in Swabi.

Out of the 35 National Assembly seats from the NWFP, results from three constituencies were awaited. These included two constituencies from the Mansehra district and one from Swabi, where ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan was pitted against the wealthy independent candidate Usman Taraki, contesting from the platform of Swabi Jamhouri Ittehad. Asfandyar Wali Khan won his National Assembly seat from his native Charsadda district but disputes over vote counting and charges of irregularities by ANP activists against the cigarette-manufacturing tycoon forced authorities to delay announcement of the results there.

The other major upset came for the JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who lost badly to the PPP candidate, Faisal Karim Kundi, by a large margin in his home constituency of Dera Ismail Khan. To Fazlur Rehman’s relief, however, he managed to win from the neighbouring Bannu district, home to his former chief minister Muhammad Akram Khan Durrani. Three of Fazlur Rehman’s brothers – Maulana Ataur Rehman, Maulana Lutfur Rehman and Maulana Obaidur Rehman – who were contesting for national and provincial assembly seats, lost to rival candidates.

The president of the PML-Q NWFP, Amir Muqam, who was contesting for a national and a provincial assembly seats from Peshawar, lost both. However, he managed to retain his National Assembly seat from his native Shangla district.

The PML-N secretary-general, Iqbal Zaffar Jhagra, set a record of sorts by having never been able to win an election. He was contesting for national and provincial assembly seats from Peshawar and lost both.