Pashtun leaders pay high price as voters demand change

Pashtun leaders pay high price as voters demand change
Pakistani opposition leader and head of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a religious parties alliance, Maulana Fazalur Rehman leaves after attending a meeting in Islamabad on July 31, 2018. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP)
Updated 31 July 2018

Pashtun leaders pay high price as voters demand change

Pashtun leaders pay high price as voters demand change
  • They lost not because of rigging but because voters in Pakistan are getting mature, says analyst
  • Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of ANP was the first politician to concede defeat

PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s election has stunned heavyweight Pashtun religious and nationalist leaders who were “wiped out” at the polls as voters rejected political dynasties in favor of change.
The poll results surprised many at home and abroad with the defeat of veteran Pashtun leaders such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Awami National Party (ANP) Chairman Asfandyar Wali and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Siraj-ul-Haq.
According to the 2017 census, Pakistan’s population has surged to 207.8 million, with ethnic Pashtuns making up 24 percent of the country’s population — the second largest ethnic group in the country.
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, emerged as the leading party in the poll, but opposition parties have questioned the legitimacy of the elections amid claims of vote rigging.
Senior politicians and heads of political parties facing defeat include Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former prime minister and veteran Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Aftab Sherpao of Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), and former Housing Minister Akram Khan Durrani.
The JUI-F chief lost in his traditional stronghold and hometown of Dera Ismail Khan, while contesting from two constituencies, NA-38 and NA-39.
Soon after his defeat, the party leader, who also leads the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious-politico parties, rejected the poll results.
“The election has been held, but in a real sense it was a brazen assault on the people’s mandate,” he said.
Political scientist Irfanullah Khan said the entire Pashtun religious and nationalist political leadership had been wiped out in the elections.
“I don’t think they lost because of rigging but because voters in Pakistan are getting mature and simply discard those who can’t deliver,” Khan said.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was contesting for the first time from three constituencies, lost in Malakand (NA-8) and in Lyari (NA-246) constituency of Karachi city. However, he managed to secure victory from his native constituency NA-200 in Larkana.
Zardari tweeted that attempts to keep him out of Parliament had failed. “Party workers are understandably outraged when it takes 28 hours to announce controversial results,” he said.
“The voice of Pashtuns, either religious or nationalist, will be largely missing in the Parliament,” Khan said.
ANP chief Asfandyar Wali faced a surprise defeat in his native Charsadda constituency NA-24.
“Not only the ANP, but the entire Pashtun leadership has been targeted in this election,” his party quoted him as saying as he rejected his defeat.
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, who contested from four constituencies, could secure his victory only in Lahore. Sharif faced defeat in Dera Ghazi Khan, Karachi and Swat.
On behalf of PML-N, Khwaja Asif, former foreign minister, said that the PML-N would act as a “vibrant opposition” in the Parliament.
Rehmat Khan, former additional inspector-general, told Arab News that it was not a question of vote rigging of election but the fact that people are fed up with “hereditary politics.”
“Voters want new leaders, and those winning elections again and again with a background in hereditary politics have been firmly rejected,” he said.
PML-N stalwart Sardar Awais Leghari also lost in his home constituency of Dera Ghazi Khan. Another veteran, JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq, lost in his native Lower Dir area.
A seasoned political figure, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who had been in the Parliament since 1985 tasted defeat on two seats — NA-59 and NA-63 in Rawalpindi district.
In another upset, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi lost on two seats in Islamabad and his native constituency Murree.
But the PTI chairman secured an overwhelming victory on all five seats contested, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Bannu and his hometown Mianwali.
PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai told a press conference in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, that his party rejected the election results.
Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a senior ANP leader, also lost the election from NA-31 in Peshawar. Bilour was the first politician to concede defeat.
Khurshid Ahmad, a retired intelligence officer, said that a new generation wants a new leadership to deliver instead of voting in favor of political dynasties.
“The voters rejected religious and nationalist leaders because they didn’t deliver in the past,” he said.