PESHAWAR: While Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) braces for the 2018 elections, the pre-poll landscape hints at a possible coalition government this time, as in previous elections, according to analysts.
The outgoing ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) no longer enjoys the support of its former coalition partner in the government — the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) — while political entities such as Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur Rahman (JUI-F) are reluctant to campaign after the recent terror attacks.
The Taliban carried out a suicide attack, killing ANP leader Haroon Bilour, earlier this week as he was conducting a corner meeting in Peshawar. Another bomb blast targeted JUI-F leader and former Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Akram Durrani, in Bannu on Friday during his election campaign.
The recent spike in terror attacks and the threat alert issued by the Taliban to mainstream political parties has stirred a wave of panic in the province, particularly the capital city of Peshawar.
Analysts believe the recent situation is bound to impact the level playing filed in the province and adversely impact the election campaign of different parties in KP.
“After the attack on the ANP rally, people have been scared and many people would not like to attend rallies. It has badly affected election campaigns,” said Ismail Khan, a senior analyst based in Peshawar.
“KP has a pluralistic society where people vote for different parties in each election,” said Khan, explaining the voter trend in the province.
“Here people don’t consider ‘beradari’ (communal bonds) important and they don’t give much importance to visits of politicians in their ceremonies like weddings or funerals. This is why they comfortably vote for different leaders every time.”
He said the electorate in KP generally tries different parties and changes rulers in each election.
Many political analysts view MMA appearing as a major challenge for PTI in the 2018 elections.
“JUI, ANP and PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) don’t want to forge an alliance with PTI. Although PTI is also strong in the province and has the incumbency factor to its edge, this time the MMA has also emerged as a force and can win a good number of seats in KP,” senior analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai told Arab News.
Former director of the Area Study Center, University of Peshawar, Prof Dr. Sarfaraz Khan, said PTI failed to achieve certain big targets.
“They left the mega project of the bus rapid transit (BRT) incomplete in Peshawar, which is now causing problems like traffic jams in the city. Also, they did not launch any big project in the education sector. The chief minister has set up a university in his own constituency in Nowshera but there is no other project. ANP had set up several universities when we compare PTI with ANP,” he said.
However, PTI has brought reforms in the police, acknowledged Sarfaraz Khan. “PTI’s overall performance is not good when we compare it with previous government in the province. It is because PTI has focused mainly on Punjab, trying to bag seats in Punjab and staging protest sit-ins against the federal government in the past,” he said.
Dr. Sarfaraz also said the PML-N is likely to get more sympathy votes this time in KP after the recent conviction of its political leaders, which is being viewed as a conspiracy against the party.
“This time a much weaker coalition government is expected in KP,” said Sarfaraz Khan.
The ANP, which is considered a secular political party representing Pashtuns and their rights, was also more active but the July 10 suicide attack on ANP rally in Peshawar severely affected the party’s election campaign.
ANP spokesman Zahid Khan said that the suicide attacks are a hurdle in their election activities but the party will continue campaigning. He added that the Pashtun nationalist party has decided not to forge an alliance with any other party.
The ANP considers Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan and Peshawar as its stronghold but also has supporters in other districts of KP, Zahid Khan told Arab News.
The government has decided to hold provincial assembly elections in the tribal districts within one year of the historic merger between KP and the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). However, the elections for National Assembly seats will be held simultaneously across KP including the tribal districts.
Rahimullah Yusufzai believes that the elections of members of the National Assembly in the recently merged tribal districts can also affect the provincial assembly elections to be held later in those areas.
“Definitely, the MNAs who are going to be elected in tribal districts will also support their respective parties in the subsequent provincial assembly elections in their respective areas. It would be better if the provincial assembly elections are also held in settled and tribal districts at a time, just like the National Assembly elections are being held in both areas, but for this requires time and much resources, this is the reason behind the delay,” he said.
“Also, the elections of members for the KP Assembly from the tribal districts can also affect the balance of power and it can affect the coalition government that is likely to be elected in the July 25 elections in the province,” he said. The provincial assembly has to elect 23 members to the provincial assembly, including 18 on general seats, four on women reserved seats and one from the minorities.
He, however, said that component religious parties of the MMA have their vote bank. “JI is strong in Malakand areas including Dir and Buner, while JUI-F has vote bank in southern districts of KP,” he said.
In the 2013 elections in KP, 124 members were elected to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, 99 regular seats, 22 seats reserved for women and three seats for Non-Muslims.
In the 2013 elections, PTI won 45 seats, PMLN and JUI-F won 16 seats each, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and JI secured eight seats, ANP bagged five seats, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad (AJI) won four seats each, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) secured one seat, and independent candidates won 12 seats.