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MANSEHRA: Mansehra gears up for local polls

January 28, 2005

MANSEHRA, Jan 27: Political activities in the Mansehra district are gaining momentum in preparation for the forthcoming local bodies' elections.

A tug-of-war has already started among key contenders to capture the posts of district and tehsil nazims, in addition to those of three important union councils of Mansehra city and Mansehra rural.

Some major players, including the PML leader, Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, leader of the opposition in the NWFP Assembly, Shahzada Mohammad Gustasap Khan, district nazim Syed Ahmad Hussain Shah, MPAs Shujah Salim Khan, Syed Mazhar Ali Qasim, Zar Gul Khan, Wajeeuz Zaman Khan, ex-minister Habibur Reham Tanoli and MMA's spokesman Mufti Kifayatullah, are busy making contacts with like-minded people.

The former district nazim, senator Mohammad Azam Khan Swati, is due to return from the US within a day or two, and his presence is likely to give a boost to campaigning.

Ex-senator Syed Qasim Shah, known for making and breaking political alliances at the local level, is outside the country but his sons, MPA Syed Mazhar Ali Qasim and tehsil nazim Balakot Syed Junaid Ali Qasim, are busy shuffling their political cards.

Gen (retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi, a former director-general of Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), is also active, making contacts with pressure groups. In the last general elections, he was defeated by Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf, son of Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, on NA-20, Mansehra-I. Since then, he has come closer to the Azam Swati group.

Rumours of a new alliance between Mohammad Azam Khan Swati and Syed Qasim Shah are in the air while speculation of reconciliation between Sardar Mohammad Yousaf and Shahzada Mohammad Gustasap Khan is also ripe.

Apparently, district nazim Syed Ahamd Hussain Shah, MPA Shujah Salim Khan and Mufti Kifayatullah seem to be strong allies but analysts belive their group will have little weight without the support of Sardar Yousaf.

Syed Ahmad Hussain Shah had been elected district nazim in the by-election with the support of Sardar Yousaf after ex-nazim Azam Swati was elected senator. With the formation of the MMA government in the province, MPA Shujah Salim Khan and Mufti Kifaytullah have emerged as important, but controversial, figures.

Observers attribute this to what they call interference by Mufti Kifayatullah, a non-elected person, in the implementation of uplift schemes in the district.

After the election of Shahzada Gustasap as MPA and Azam Swati as senator, Mufti Kifayatullah had been nominated for the slot of district nazim by Azam Swati. But he withdrew his papers at the eleventh hour, giving rise to speculation that he had done so under some secret deal.

As far as MPA Shujah Salim Khan is concerned, he is facing difficulties in finding right candidates for nazims and naib nazims in three most important union councils of Mansehra city.

Some of his friends and well-wishers have parted company with him, compounding his difficulties. Among them is Syed Munir Hussain Shah, naib nazim of union council Mansehra city No 1, who had been his key backer. The reason cited for this estrangement is the MPA's interference in postings and transfers of government employees.