PESHAWAR: The upcoming Senate elections have sparked political developments as political parties have accelerated efforts to reconcile with disagreeing lawmakers and initiated steps to appease long-neglected lawmakers.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a looming Senate poll accelerated a settlement between Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and his former cabinet member Mohammad Atif Khan. The two of them became inflexible in their attitudes and intolerable of each other. The reconciliation took place when Prime Minister Imran Khan invited the two together with the head minister and Governor Shah Farman for a meeting in Islamabad.
The PTI could not afford to lose even one vote although Atif Khan would not vote for an opposition candidate in the Senate elections as that could close the door on him to win the trust of Imran Khan. On the contrary, he remained loyal to PTI and Imran Khan despite being separated from Mahmood Khan.
The PTI leadership will also closely monitor the two provincial ministers who were recently fired, Sultan Mohammad Khan and Liaqat Khattak. Both were removed from the cabinet within 11 days. Sultan Mohammad Khan, minister of law and parliament, was sacked by the prime minister after being seen in an old video in which five MPA KPs are seen counting banknotes paid to them for selling their votes to candidates in March 2015 Senate elections. He was a member of the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and not the PTI at that time but even then he was fired because he later joined PTI to participate in and win the July 2018 general election.
Liaqat Khattak, the younger brother of federal Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, was appointed irrigation minister two days ago after being blamed for supporting the potential winner of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Ikhtiar Wali, instead of PTI’s Mian Mohammad Umar. Kakakhel, in the PK-63 Nowshera by-election. Both Sultan Mohammad Khan and Liaqat Khattak are clearly angry at the way they were fired without being given the opportunity to tell their story from their side and it remains to be seen whether they will still vote for the PTI candidate for the Senate.
By winning Nowshera’s by-election, the PML-N has increased its power in the provincial assembly to seven, though still far less than it would take to win a Senate seat. The PML-N had to persuade another component of the 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), to nominate a joint candidate for the Senate seat from the PTI, which has 94 seats in the KP Assembly.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also managed to increase its power in the KP Assembly to six when the independent candidate, Amjad Afridi, elected from Kohat joined the party with his father, Senator Shamim Afridi. This was a bonus for the PPP for getting one additional seat in the provincial assembly with a Senator without much effort. Amjad Afridi and his father must have made political calculations before deciding before the Senate elections to join the PPP, which had bad luck in the 2018 general election.
The Awami National Party (ANP) is the third largest party in the KP Assembly after PTI and JUI-F Maulana Fazlur Rahman, but the numbers are still insufficient to qualify a candidate for membership in the Senate. He failed to achieve good results in the Nowshera by-election because his candidate, Mian Wajahatullah Kakakhel, only received 4,279 votes compared to the winner, Ikhtiar Wali from PML-N who collected 21,222 votes and runner-up, Mian Umar Kakakhel from PTI who received 17,023 votes. In fact, it is a common observation that ANP votes are declining even in constituencies that performed well in the previous election. ANP will make a better decision by supporting the PML-N candidate as the joint PDM candidate to gain goodwill and strengthen the opposition alliance instead of fielding its weak contestants.
JUI-F supported the PML-N candidate in the by-election by Nowshera, but worked hard to get its candidate, Mohammad Jamil Chamani, elected from the NA-45 Kurram constituency which the late candidate Munir Khan Orakzai won in the July 2018 general election. JUI-F lost to PTI Malik Fakharuzzaman by 1,150 votes. JUI-F and PTI have been the main contenders in electoral politics in the southern KP and Kurram’s by-election is testament to the fierce competition between the two parties.