PESHAWAR: As the general elections draw nearer, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), like other political parties in the country, has geared up its hunt for the electables in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has reliably been learnt.
However, it drew intense flak from the senior party leaders as well as workers. They see the new entrants as a threat to their future prospects in the party. Though, none of them protested openly, yet they do insist that the party must contest the forthcoming elections on the basis of its performance.
On the other hand, some party leaders consider it a success of the party. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly member Fazl Elahi, hailing from PTI, defends the decision of his party top leadership. “This is because of our performance and growing popularity that even sitting MPAs [members of the provincial assembly] and MNAs [members of National Assembly] from other parties are joining us.”
However, another MPA from PTI, Zarin Zia, criticizes accepting such people in the party. She considers them opportunists.
Likewise, political experts say that PTI has come to the conclusion that it has to accommodate electables in its ranks if it wants to win the next elections.
Talking to the Peshawar Today, Mazhar Abbas, senior journalist and political analyst, says that PTI has realized that it would not be able to make government in the Centre without adjusting such people in the party.
PTI can contest elections on the basis of its performance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but would not be able to make government in the Centre: Mazhar Abbas
Rahimullah Yousafazi, a Peshawar-based senior journalist and political analyst, says that PTI leadership has realized that only those having strong financial background can contest and win elections.
“The situation has changed. Adjusting electables would not definitely weaken the position of opposition parties, ultimately strengthening PTI in constituencies where it lost elections.”
A senior officer-bearer of PTI tells the Peshawar Today that apart from the merger of Awami Jamhuri Ittehad having three MPAs and an MNA, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUIF)’s MPA Fazli Shakoor, Qaumi Wattan Party MPA Sultan Mehmood and Miraj Humayun have joined party.
In addition, more than six sitting MPAs of QWP, JUI-F and PPP will join party before the tenure of the incumbent government ends, he tells the Peshawar Today requesting anonymity.
Out of the total 35 National Assembly seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI had won 17 seats in the last general elections. It fielded seven candidates who had either contested election or were elected as lawmakers. However, only three of them could make it to the Lower House of the Parliament.
But this time around, over 60 to 70 per cent PTI candidates would be the electables who contested election earlier from other platforms. A well-placed source PTI confides to the Peshawar Today that they include sitting MNA of Jamaat-i-Islam from Buner Shar Akbar, MNA from Swabi Usman Khan Tarakai, Umar Ayub from Haripur, Habibullah Kundi from Tank and Arbab Najeebullah and Noor Alam Khan from Peshawar.
There are no permanent principles in politics: Rahimullah Yousafzai
“There are no permanent principles in politics. PTI which earlier claimed to be doing politics of idealism has now realized that it would not bode well anymore,” says Rahimullah Yousafzai while talking to the Peshawar Today.
The 2013 election shows that PTI had pitched 97 out of 99 candidates for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. Amongst them only 11 were those who either contested or were elected earlier. Only five of them romped home in the last general elections.
Some senior PTI leaders believe that it was because of meteoric rise of Imran Khan that PTI had won 35 provincial assembly seats with mostly new faces, enabling it to make a coalition government in the province.
But now people will evaluate their performance. This is why PTI has already gathered more than 40 influential figures including several sitting MPAs from other parties and those who contested as independent in the last general elections.
Requesting anonymity, another MPA says performance of the PTI government in Khyber Pakthunkhwa was not that good to bank on its own candidates without accepting elebtables in the party.
During background interviews with the senior leaders and sitting MPAs of PTI, Peshawar Today learnt that PTI has failed to reorganize itself on union councils and village level.
PTI MPA from Peshawar Shaukat Yousafzai says that in areas where PTI had managed handsome seats will either be contested with the same candidates or be replaced with new party workers.
The party is also in talks with QWP sitting MPA from Swabi Abdul Karim who is likely to join PTI in near future, party sources say.
PTI MPA Zar Gul is confident that in Swat, the party will not go with electables but ideological workers would be given party tickets to contest elections.
However, sources in the party say that candidates in Peshawar district where PTI had won 10 out of the total 11 seats of the provincial assembly, will be replaced with other party workers as performance of the majority of the sitting MPAs is not up to the mark.
They add that Haji Shaukat Ali [(former town nazim), Arbab Najeebullah and Arbab Amir Ayub of ANP, Noor Alam Khan of Pakistan People’s Party(PPP) who recently joined PTI, will be contesting for National Assembly seats from Peshawar.
PTI is also in touch with Arbab Alamgir of PPP to join the party, the sources say.
Another MPA from Peshawar says that in the recent membership drive in Peshawar Division, the party could only register 5,000 members. A number of MPAs from Peshawar confirmed this.
“Contractual appointments, repeated amendments in laws of Ehtesab Commission, Right to Information Commission and other departments marred our performance.”
The party wasted almost two years in sit-ins, so called long marches besides party wrangling also affected performance of the provincial government, he says. .
“We spent all these years either in sit-ins and fighting chief minister for funds,” says another MPA, adding that sitting in the air-conditioned rooms and making legislations is no development.
The party leadership has also decided to replace some MPAs with more vibrant party leaders or electables. Senior leaders at PTI’s election cell say that involvement of some MPAs in horse-trading in the recent Senate elections will also decide their fate. “These MPAs already knew they might not get tickets and they were least bothered not to sell their votes in the elections.”
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has sent a list to PTI Chairman Imran Khan containing the names of 17 MPAs who purportedly voted opposition parties candidates in Senate elections.
The party is also searching electabels on areas where party has weak roots. Hazara Division is one such area. Out of the total seven seats of the provincial assembly, PTI had won only two seats in the last elections.
‘If PTI want to win election in Hazara Division, it needs electables instead of party worker’
A party source says that if the PTI wants to win election in Hazara Division, it needs electables instead of party works.
They are hopeful that after joining of the former federal minister Umar Ayub, and Zar Gul Khan the party will be in a position to secure more seats.
A senior party leader at the PTI Election Cell in Islamabad tells the Peshawar Today that there are meager chances that party would award tickets to MPAs like Arif Yousaf, Mehmood Jan, Fazl Elahi, Yasin Khalil, Iftikhar Mashwani and Ubaid Mayar. Shaukat Yousafzai will be contesting election from Shangla, his hometown.
When contacted, Political Advisor to Chief Minister and regional president Hazara Division, Zar Gul Khan, says that electables will be pitched in the constituencies where PTI candidates are weak.
“Look at our own [Hazara] division, PTI had won only two seats out of seven during the last general elections. Both were the old faces. If you want to won elections in Hazara Division, you need to bring electables and influential families into party ranks.”
He dispels the impression that PTI is ignoring its ideological workers, saying that it will prefer them in constituencies where they can easily win elections.