Pakistani PM’s ruling party loses key mayoral seat in political heartland

Pakistani PM’s ruling party loses key mayoral seat in political heartland
PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has been in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province since 2013. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 December 2021
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Pakistani PM’s ruling party loses key mayoral seat in political heartland

Pakistani PM’s ruling party loses key mayoral seat in political heartland
  • Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl candidate Zubair Ali won Peshawar mayor’s seat, defeating PTI’s Rizwan Bangash

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday his ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party had paid the price for “mistakes” in recent local elections and he would personally supervise future strategy for his side’s campaign after a PTI candidate lost a coveted mayoral seat in a province the premier’s party has ruled since 2013. 

Local elections were held in 17 districts of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday in what is the first time such polls have been held in areas that used to be part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which were merged with KP in 2018. 

In a second phase, local elections will be held in the remaining 18 districts of KP on Jan. 16. Local polls are also planned in the coming months in Pakistan’s other provinces.

Unofficial results of the KP polls, reported by media and local election officials, showed that Zubair Ali, the candidate from the religious political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, had won the mayor’s seat in the provincial capital of Peshawar, defeating Rizwan Bangash from PTI. 

“PTI made mistakes in 1st phase of KP LG elections & paid the price. Wrong candidate selection was a major cause,” Khan said on Twitter. “From now on I will personally be overseeing PTI’s LG election strategy in 2nd phase of KP LG elections & LG elections across Pak. InshaAllah PTI will come out stronger.”

PTI’s Bangash told Arab News on Monday his party would request a recount of both the overall votes as well as those that were rejected due to irregularities.

“We’re optimistic of securing victory because we’re going for a review of 16,000 rejected votes and a recount of overall votes cast in favor of myself and my rival,” Bangash said.

 

 

Jalil Jan, KP spokesman for JUI-F, congratulated the people of KP for having confidence in the party, saying the results “clearly depicted that people are fed up with the way the PTI is ruling the province.”

Dawn reported that PTI leaders attributed the party’s performance to rising inflation in the country.

“Inflation has increased, which in turn has affected the people,” KP Minister for Labor and Human Rights Shaukat Yousafzai was quoted by the news outlet as saying.

KP Assembly Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan, however, accused PTI lawmakers of being “disloyal” to the party and blamed them for the defeat in the polls.

Jan’s brother, Ehtesham Khan, contested for Tehsil Mathra’s chairmanship and finished at third, while JUI-F’s Fareed Ullah won the constituency.

So far, unofficial results show JUI-F leading and PTI in second place. 

Sohail Ahmad, a spokesman for the provincial Election Commission of Pakistan, said the body would announce the official ballot results on Dec. 25.

According to a statement issued by the deputy commissioner officer of Peshawar, the results of all polling stations of Peshawar Tehsil Council had been received, but official results had to be withheld because the polling process was suspended in six polling stations over security reasons.

According to unofficial results, JUI-F’s Ali received 62,388 votes, Bangash of the ruling PTI got 50,659 votes while Arbab Zarak Khan from the Pakistan People’s Party won 45,958 votes.

Ali had therefore won the Peshawar mayor’s seat with a margin of around 11,500 votes.

On Sunday, elections were held in Charsadda, Nowshera, and Mardan in Peshawar as well as in KP, Mohmand Agency, Swabi, Kohat, Karak, Hangu, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Haripur, Buner, Bajaur, and Dera Ismail Khan.

with more than 35,700 candidates in the run for the tehsil council, village council and neighborhood councils.

About 3,900 women candidates were in the contest, including from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Strict security arrangements were in place as over 12.6 million voters went to the polls in the 17 districts. Nearly 80,000 law enforcers were deployed in areas where polling took place.

However, reports of violence and armed attacks related to the election left five people dead and several wounded, according to police and locals.

On Saturday, a day before the polls, mayoral candidate Umar Khitab was gunned down outside his home in Dera Ismail Khan, District Police Officer Najamul Hasnain told media.

Additionally, the polling process had to be suspended in several polling stations in Bannu and Dara Adam Khel, a town in the KP tribal district, due to an attack on Federal Minister for Science Shibli Faraz in Kohat. The minister escaped unhurt.

A roadside bomb also hit the vehicle of an Awami National Party leader in the Bajaur tribal district on election day, leaving two people dead and three wounded.

A polling station and ballot boxes were also set on fire in Darra Adam Khel.