By Sankar Ray
The Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has suffered a major setback in the local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where PTI is being mauled by Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. JUF-I is already set to get the mayorship of Peshawar, Kohat and Bannu. Its winning streak continues in the first ever direct voting to tehsil chairmen/mayors since the merger of tribal districts with KP. Out of 64 tehsils in 17 districts, where elections were held on Sunday, JUI-F led on 20 tehsil chairperson slots, while the PTI trailed behind with 15 seats. Some topPTI leaders in KP reportedly went underground after poor show in the Cantt polls.
Significantly, ANP’s Himayatullah has been elected as the mayor in Mardan with 56,458 votes, followed by the JUI-F’s Amanat Shah Haqqani with 49,938 votes, according to unofficial results. JUI’s candidates secured the remaining three seats of mayor in Kohat, Bannu, and Peshawar, according to unofficial results.
There were violent incidents during poll campaign. In Dera Ismail Khan the ANP mayoral candidate was killed on the day before polling. Election had to be postponed in Bannu’s Nakka Khel Tehsil following alleged abduction of polling personnel However, the remaining 18 districts will go to the polls in the second phase on 16 January 2022
JUI-F chief said the results of the LG elections had once more “proven” that his party was the single largest party of the KP .At a news conference, flanked by former Balochistan chief minister Aslam Raisani in Quetta, he doubled down on his claims that the PTI rule was bereft of any legitimacy and had been formed through “selection”.
The ruling party managed to win only one of seven tehsils in Peshawar, in contrast to three and two by JUI-F and ANP respectively. In Mardan, the PTI was wiped out. The JUI-F won in three tehsils, followed by ANP’s two. In Bannu, the PTI candidate established a lead on the mayoral seat and clinched tehsil chairperson slots in Buner, Kagara, Daggar, Gambat and Rustam.
The ruling PT leadership is unnerved and this is reflected in the instantaneous reaction by the federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry: “The country will plunge deeper into turmoil in the absence of PTI and if parties like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and JUI-F come into power.” He didn’t stop there and tweeted in chaste Urdu, which in rough translation reads ‘The flaws of the structure have been exposed to all. If such media is free media then what will happen to slave media? Freedom of the media is being held hostage by the mafia’
However, King Khan is relatively mild in his reaction in his tweet: ‘PTI made mistakes in 1st phase of KP LG elections & paid the price. Wrong candidate selection was a major cause. From now on I will personally be overseeing PTI’s LG election strategy in 2nd phase of KP LG elections & LG elections across Pak. Insha Allah PTI will come out stronger’ Pat came a rider from one Younis Pak in Urdu ‘What is the solution to this problem? The way you have shown the people of Pakistan a green garden on the canter and then you have taken a U-turn. You too should be a servant’
The Pak premier was snubbed by the Election Commission of Pakistan a fortnight before the LH polls when he went to the KP capital city Peshawar to launch “Micro Health Insurance Programme”. He was accused of the flouting code of conduct. The ECP threatened to initiate legal proceedings under Section-233 (code of conduct) and 234 (monitoring of election campaigns) of the Elections Act, 2017.
Going by unofficial accounts, the Awami National Party managed to win nine slots and independent candidates won10 tehsil chairperson slots. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz won three, Jamaat-e-Islami two, while the Pakistan Peoples Party, Tehreek-e-Islahat Pakistan and Mazdoor Kissan Party got one seat each.
Taking a pot shot at the PTI rulers, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz said that the change that the PTI had promised is “already dying down in a humiliating way. She tweeted bantering PTI’s rallying cry “tabdeeli aa nahi rahi, tabdeeli aa gai hay” (change is not coming, it has already arrived). The government pushed 220 million Pakistanis into inflation associated with lawlessness, and incompetence, she added.
All these are signs of waning popularity of King Khan who is under fire for his adventurist wooing of the Taliban. The setback in KP has added more fuel to this falling image. His criticism of previous government as having been drowned in corruption, thereby causing enhanced impoverishment. Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai back-volleyed tweeting, “allegation that #ISIS is active in #Afghanistan, threatening #Pakistan from #Afghanistan is clear propaganda as the reality has been the opposite. The threat of #ISIS has been directed from #Pakistan against #Afghanistan from the very onset”. (IPA Service)