PESHAWAR: Probably for the first time in the contemporary history, seven heads of mainstream political parties are contesting from different constituencies of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, giving a sort of importance to the voters of the otherwise neglected province.
Those flexing muscles for their tough contests in different districts of the province include chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, president of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Shahbaz Sharif and chief of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and head of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Besides, amir of Jamat-e-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq, head of the Awami National Party (ANP) Asfandyar Wali Khan and chairman of the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and among the party heads who are flexing muscles for the July 25 poll from their native districts.
The PTI chief will be contesting for the first time from NA-35 Bannu against former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani. Imran Khan is also contesting from Islamabad, Mianwali, Lahore and Karachi. He won from NA-1 Peshawar in the 2013 elections but vacated the seat later, allowing veteran ANP leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour to retain it in the by-polls.
Shahbaz Sharif is contesting from NA-3 Swat where MMA has also withdrawn its candidate in favour of the PMLN chief. Shahbaz Sharif is also contesting the upcoming polls from Lahore, Karachi and Dera Ghazi Khan. He is to face Saleemur Rahman of PTI and Jehanzeb Khan of ANP in NA-3.
The PML-N has earned a good vote bank in Swat and Shangla districts in the recent years after Amir Muqam took over as provincial president. Amir Muqam is to contest from, NA-2 as well as PK-2 and PK-4 in Swat. He has been claiming for quite some time that both prime minister and chief minister KP will be elected from Swat.
In the neighboring district of Malakand, PPP has fielded its young chairman Bilawal Bhutto from NA-8. Besides, Bilawal is a candidate from NA-246 Lyari and NA-200 Larkana. In Malakand, Bakhtiar Maani of MMA and Junaid Akbar of PTI are his strong opponents.
Malakand was once a stronghold of the PPP. However, the number of national and provincial assembly seats of the party started reducing from the area over the last few years. The former PPP chairperson and prime minister of the country Benazir Bhutto had contested from NA-1 Peshawar in 1990 but was defeated by Ghulam Bilour.
A number of voters, however, believe that the heads of these political parties ignored the province in the past and only focused on Punjab and Sindh. The voters still believe these leaders will vacate their KP seats if elected in the coming polls, preferring their home constituencies.
The MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman is contesting on two national assembly constituencies, NA-38 and NA-39, from his hometown Dera Ismail Khan. He is to face former deputy speaker of the national assembly Faisal Karim Kundi of the PPP and Ali Amin Gandapur of the PTI.
The southern districts are considered to be the stronghold of MMA. A large number of MNAs and MPAs of the MMA in 2002 were elected from the southern districts. The chief minister of the province, Akram Khan Durrani, was also elected from southern Bannu district while Maulana Fazlur Rehman was chosen opposition leader in the National Assembly.
The JI chief Sirajul Haq is facing QWP chairman and former interior minister Aftab Sherpao in NA-23 Charsadda. Sirajul Haq has also submitted papers from NA-7 in his native Dir district. JI has a good vote bank in Dir Upper and Dir Lower. Sirajul Haq is a member of the Upper House and has served twice as senior minister in the KP government.
The QWP chief Aftab Sherpao has been wining his seat, now NA-23, from Charsadda since 1988. It is to be seen whether he manages wining his seat in the coming polls or fails to win it. Sherpao remained chief minister of the province as well as member of the federal cabinet in the past.
On another national assembly seat from Charsadda, NA-24, the ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan is facing Maulana Gohar Shah of MMA. The ANP and MMA both have a good vote bank in Charsadda district.
Apart from Charsadda, ANP once had a huge vote bank in Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda and other districts of the province. The party performed poorly in the previous polls but it seems to have improved to a great extent in the last few years.