Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Electoral Landscape: Some Lessons from NA4 By-Elections

By Yasir Khan
With next general elections less than a year away and the current uncertain political landscape, recent by-election in NA4 took extra significance. The ruling PTI wanted to prove that its model of governance can payoff electorally. The opposition, on the other hand wanted to show that voters can see through the careful marketing strategy of PTI and do not believe it has delivered during the last four years.
The two main ruling parties, PTI in the provincial government and PML-N in the federal, pulled every trick of patronage based politics to extract support from the voters. The PML-N candidate, flanked by the powerful Advisor to the Prime Minister, had the upper hand in dolling out the goodies in the form household gas connections and restoration of electricity to the area. While the provincial departments settled for solar powered systems and promising rehabilitation of sewers and streets.
In the end the result was predictable but instructive of the new political landscape of Peshawar valley and maybe Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PTI candidate, Arbab Amir Ayub, comfortably secured the most number of votes that are almost 20,000 more than the runner up candidate, Khushdil Khan of ANP and Nasir Khan Mosazai of PML-(N) who secured the third position.

Nevertheless distribution of votes and party standing compared to the 2013 elections are instructive. First, Nasir Khan Mosazai improved his vote collection over that of 2013. However this should not be a cause of any disillusion in the ranks of PML-N. The party’s effort to get support from JUIF did not benefit him in any way. The marginal increase in votes is probably more the works of delicate patronage based politics than extra voters coming out because JUI-F or PML-N appealed to them in any way.
ANP on the other hand has a lot to take from this election, both promising and concerning. The party’s goal of improving on its dismal show in 2013 election and posing a serious threat to PTI suffered a blow with the defection of Arbab Amir to PTI early this year. In this back drop, the veteran Khushdil Khan’s performance must have been heartening for the party and its battered support. However therein lies the party’s problem. It has clearly not been able to broaden its appeal wide enough to pose a serious challenge to PTI. It relies on targeting PTI’s leadership but does not offer a viable alternative to the current government. This means the support is stagnant, and probably short of a miracle they will at most be the runner up in other similar elections.

PTI on the other hand appears to have solidified its support into a core that seems formidable. This election is an indication that the party’s core workers are willing to come out in support of the party irrespective of any noise the opposition makes about their leadership and performance. They believe the message from party leadership whole heartedly and are willing to overlook the continued absence of their elected representatives from constituencies to be around the party Chairman, be it in Banigala or Nathiagali. This core support may turn out to be the jiyala equivalent of the current generation, a kind of neo-jiyalas.

Another important thing about this core support is their age profile. They are young, energetic and seem to have committed to the party ideology. Exit polls by non-partisan Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CDPI), revealed PTI has support at almost every age group. But most importantly the younger age groups, who are going to stay involved in politics far longer, are predominantly PTI supporters.

PTI also has an advantage of having a master politicians in its ranks in the form of Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak

. While the party has unwavering support from its core voters, its elected ranks are far from unified. There are visible differences between the provincial cadres of the party on issues such as distribution of funds and next Chief Minister. These very public differences were probably one of the reason why the opposition even believed that they have a chance to dislodge PTI from NA4. But the Chief Minister, an old jiyala, successfully managed to convert these differences into an opportunity for himself. He has been on an offensive against the opposition parties, poaching their electables and filling the ranks of PTI with men who have seen the hot and cold of politics, understanding the value of compromise and politicking.

This means the opposition parties will have an uphill, probably impossible, task to dislodge PTI in the general elections if they continued with the current approach. PTI is vulnerable in the next election but only to the extent that the opposition parties understand its weakness and strengths. So far the opposition does not seem to have any clue about it.

About the Author: Yasir Khan is pursuing PhD at UC Berkeley.

QK Archives: book reviews

Published 24 November 2003 by the Statesman Peshawar Mashriq group
About those living with pride and dignity
The self pride of Afghan (Da Afghan Nang)
Writer: Ajmal Khattak
Price: Rs50
By Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzay
Being a popular name in Pakistani politics, Ajmal Khattak has seen many ups and downs throughout his long political career extending to about half a century. His life is full of tortures and sufferings he went through at the hands of various governments and decades-long self-exile but his association with leftist ideologies has always earned him more public criticism than support.
Being a supporter of Pakhto plus Islamic philosophy in Pakhtun politics, I always criticise un-Islamic political philosophies (including the one supported by Khattak) for a nation full of Islamic and Pakhtun valour but his contribution to Pakhto language as a legendry revolutionary and nationalist poet and writer will always keep his name shining like a unique star in the sky of Pakhto literature.
He has developed his own school of thought in Pakhto literature influencing some very great poets of his time such as great Rehmat Shah Sayel and has, therefore, secured a unique recognition among Pakhto lovers.
Today, sitting 7000 miles away from my home, I came across his great book “DA AFGHAN NANG” (The self-Pride of Afghan) and being very close to Afghan refugees in the UK for a while, I had the opportunity to learn about the way Afghan Pakhtuns think and live. Afghanistan has always been misunderstood as an easy target by several popular invaders like the USSR, Alexander and many others but the case has always been the reverse. Being frontline defenders of their country for several centuries, Afghans have learnt to live with honour and dignity in spite of being thoroughly bombed and forced to seek refuge.
In his this collection, Ajmal Khattak has been very successful in painting the harsh realities of Afghan lives they never deserved or expected but never let their national self-pride down.
This collection has 19 stories and each story is so unique with intelligently selected characters and artistically gathered realities of the war that the author never loses his contact with the original theme. He takes his reader very close to the actual sufferings Afghans went through and at occasions makes one cry but at the end of each and every story builds such a confidence that in some cases the reader learns the real meaning of self-pride and its national significance.
His skill of using simple words with great fluency and continuity keeps each story completely distinct from every other but simultaneously retains the theme of the book very alive and intact.
In agreement with my personal experience of living with Afghans who always keep their national self-esteem dear and most important to them than everything else, the author has proved in his stories that Afghans as a nation prefer to live anonymous lives when in exile and work hard to earn bread but never reveal their glorious past to anyone even at the worst moments of their history.
In spite of his deep association with politics, the author has been successful in keeping the book free from traces of politics which makes it representative of a true literary giant hidden in the personality of great Ajmal Khattak.
I would like to advise every Pakhtun to read the book and understand the meaning of self-pride and realize that how their blood brothers and sisters left their great country and how mercilessly everyone (including the author of the book) criticized them at the moments they were desperately looking for and deserving their enormous support.

A deep sense of nostalgia
By Sher Alam Shinwari
Book: Khwaga khawora Terakhay Kesai
(A collection of Pashto Short stories)
Writer: Dr. Yasin Iqbal Yousafzai
Pp: 170
Rs: 100
Pakhto short story as a literary genre is still very young. Many titles of this genre have appeared in the market but only a few could get due attention of the readers. Those writers who have a keen observation and understanding of their surrounding can vividly express the problems of their people. Fiction writing involves a lot of time and a clear vision on the part of the writer.
Dr Yasin Iqbal Youasfzai is fortunately one such writer who apart from being a highly qualified person has a sincere heart to highlight the problems in a befitting manner. His present book is a collection containing eleven short stories with lively characters. There is a deep sense of nostalgia as it is there in his earlier collection of poetry. Dr Yasin has settled in England in connection with his job. His deep affection for his own people compelled him to put his concerns into fiction. He perceives an ideal Pakhtun society which should be enlightened as well as reflective of its own glorious traditions. He wants that traditions of Pakhtuns should be in line with the needs and challenges of the 21st century.
Da Shalamay Saday Khan on page 46 is the story of a stranger who meets Bahadari, a village khan. The stranger is a selfish person who never bothers to take care of the Pakhtun traditions. Bahadari termed this stranger a Pakhtun of 20th or the 21st century. Other stories are Bangla, Warokay Yar, Sartor, Khawaray Ba Khah Shu, Nar Na Mari, Kani Na Swazi, Sal Pa Laley Poray and Kharr Qabroona which throw some light on the social life of the Pakhtun folk.
Warokay Yar is a story about chillum, a very important component of the Pakhtun hujra which has disappeared now from hujras. Kharr Qabroona is the last story of the book which carries the nostalgia of the writer more than other short story in this collection. It is more or less a commentary on the deteriorating social values of the Pakhtun society. However, Dr Yasin Yousafzai wishes his people to have a better understanding of the changing global scenario. It is in the Pakhto fiction that he wants to paint the picture of a society which should present and represent the true life of the Pakhtuns.
The language used is very simple and the style is fluent and quite understandable. Dr Yasin is an enthusiastic writer who in spite of the fact that he is a scientist also takes interest in the literary activities. His other books including this are available on the net address: