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The Deal that Handed PTI the Walkover in KP

An eleventh-hour understanding between treasury and opposition helps stem horse-trading while letting PTI optimize its gains in Senate Election in KP.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) grabbed 10 out of 12 seats in the senate elections from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, four of them going to one influential family.

Awami National Party (ANP) and JUI (F) each secured a general seat while the other two member parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) lost out – the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on a technocrat seat and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) on a general seat.

“I can tell you that money was used in this election”, ANP parlia- mentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak told this scribe. “Even members from opposition parties took money but the candidates getting their votes lost out due to our election strategies”.
The five PTI candidates to win general seats were federal information minister Shibli Faraz, Liaqat Tarakai, Faisal Saleem Rehman, Zeeshan Khanzada, and Mohsin Aziz. With the exception of the last named, all these Senators are linked together by family ties.
The two opposition senators to be returned were Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman of the JUI-F, a brother of party chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman; and Haji Hidayatullah Khan of the ANP.

On technocrat seats, PTI’s Dost Mohammad Mehsud and Humayun Khan Mohmand emerged winners while Farhatullah Babar of PPP, who was backed by the joint opposition, lost out. PTI’s Sania Nishtar and Falak Naz Chitrali won on women’s seats, while Gurdeep Singh claimed a minority seat. PML-N’s Abbas Afridi and BAP’s Taj Mohammad Afridi lost their seats in the general category.

Interestingly, a record thirteen members of the KP provincial assembly, most of them from the ruling party, spoiled their ballots in the first go. The returning officer issued them fresh ballot papers upon request.

The opposition Jamaat-i-Islami abstained from the elections in the National Assembly but took part in the elections in KP with its three MPAs casting their votes after cutting a deal with the PDM and contested election on the seat reserved for women.

The JUI (F) and ANP believe that they were hopeful on technocrat and woman seats too but fielding of an extra candidate by PML (N) seems to have spoiled their chances.

The PML (N) nominated Abbas Afridi on the general seat despite reservations expressed by other components of the opposition alliance. Soon after nomination of Abbas Afridi,rumours spread that members of ANP and PPP were approached to switch their loyalties.

Sources from the opposition confirmed to this scribe that it was already decided that Abbas Afridi would not try to get votes from the opposition benches and would secure his seat by poaching ruling party lawmakers. But after taking the rumours seriously the opposi- tion parties met to discuss the issue and restricted communications by their members.

Despite all out efforts, there were still reports of horse-trading in the house. It was decided by JUI (F) and ANP to approach PTI for settlement in Khyber Pakhtunkwa like the formula followed in Punjab. Though not confirmed publicly. there are reports the parlia- mentary leaders of JUI (F) and ANP met with Chief Minister Mehmood Khan in this regard.

The PTI was expecting a seat in the general category by fielding Taj Afridi from the coalition partner Balochistan Awami Party (BAP). Chief Minister Mehmood Khan had not only to accommodate the BAP candidate but also to convince his own member Liaqat Khattak, who lost his portfolio from the cabinet after the Nowshera election fiasco.

After his ouster from the cabinet, Khattak formed his own faction inside the party. He was the second PTI lawmaker to develop

differences with the leadership after former provincial minister and Imran Khan favourite Atif Khan.

In the senate election, four of the tickets were given to his relatives including two cousins, Zeeshan Khanzada and Faisal Saleem. With such splinter groups inside the ruling party it was a major challenge to secure their seats in the senate.

Despite the Prime Minister’s expression of anger against wealthy candidates in the senate it was his party that awarded four tickets to industrialists with bags full of money on general seats. Sources close to the ruling party confirmed supply of funds to the tune of PKR 40 million to party members by the ruling party.

This was the situation where the Chief Minister of KP and his close associates had no other way left but to welcome the opposition proposal not to allow PML (N) candidate Abbas Afridi to damage the loyal vote bank of these parties through horse-trading.

As a result of this understanding, the PTI sacrificed their allied candi- date Taj Afridi, while the opposition cut short its manoeuvring to secure a technocrat seat for PPP’s FarhatullahBabar.

Dr Humayun Mohmand, a well-known plastic surgeon and health consultant to the Prime Minister, defeated Farhatullah Babar.

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