By Khalid Pervaiz (Booni)
Predictably, the contours of political scenario in Chitral will present a different picture in the 2018 elections. The emergence of the PTI on the political landscape of Chitral with a mammoth youth following will tilt the balance of power in the context of local politics. The PTI has fielded its two candidates for NA-1 and PK-1 respectively, who in all likelihood will win over the public support using the party’s manifesto for change. The majority of the youth and the bourgeois believe that Imran Khan led PTI will prove to be a beacon of hope for the suppressed and impoverished segment of the populace who have always been victimized and subjected to injustice under authoritarian and dynastic rules since the inception of this country. The long-time loyalists (Jiyalas) of the PPP in Chitral are reported to have switched over to the fold of the PTI in large number after losing hope in the Zardari-led PPP.
Given the dismal performance of the two elected members of the PPP in the previous government, this party stands the flimsiest chance of winning the 2018 elections in Chitral. Hoping against hope, the party high command has this time decided to field a business tycoon of Chitral Haji Ghulam Muhammad for PK-1 in an attempt to bolster the party support among the general public. The newly launched electable on the party ticket of PPP has remained member provincial assembly from the platform of the APML in the PPP-led government, but given his dismal performance during the previous stint, he is no more a hot favorite of the electorate. The contestants from the platform of the PPP together will have nothing to sell to the electorate in view of the party track record of backstabbing the Chitralis by diverting the funds meant for Lowari to Lyari and Multan.
It is a public perception that Nawaz Sharif has won the hearts and minds of Chitralis through his selfless services for the development of Chitral but it is for the candidates of his party to translate this plus-point into a mammoth vote bank.
The PML-N has certainly gained some foothold in Chitral with the execution of mega projects such as electrification of Chitral from Golen Gol hydro power station and the early completion of Lowari Tunnel. The joining of the political stalwart of APML Shahzada Iftikharuddin in the fold of PML(N) as a contestant for NA-1 will certainly inflate the party vote bank. The public perception in Chitral is that Nawaz Sharif has won the hearts and minds of the Chitrali’s through his selfless services for the development of Chitral. It’s for the candidates of the PML-N as to how they are going to translate the public perception into a mammoth vote in the upcoming elections. Political analysts are of the view that Mr. Saleem Khan who opted to contest for NA_1 this time around will play a role in deflating the vote bank of Shahzada Iftikharuddin in some constituencies of Lotkoh and upper Chitral.
The religious parties’ alliance under the banner of MMA will give a tough time to the contestants with its impregnable vote bank in Chitral. In the aftermath of the settlement of the rift in their ranks over distribution of party tickets, the MMA has emerged as an invincible political force to be reckoned with. The Party workers of MMA are likely to launch a defamation campaign against the Chairman PTI Imran Khan to manipulate public perception in their favour. The ‘Religion Card’ will obviously backfire this time around given the Party’s abject failure to introduce reforms in the province during its previous stint.
Having said all this, the applecart will certainly upset if the former military commander will stage a comeback to contest elections from NA-1. Former President Pervaiz Musharraf, who is the pioneer of the Lowari Tunnel, is considered as the true heartthrob of the people of Chitral and the news of his contesting elections has sent shiver down the spine of many a contestant from NA-1. With all his flaws and blemishes, popularly known as ‘Mohsin-i-Chitral’ (the benefactor of Chitral), the former military ruler is deemed a winnable candidate from NA-1. Lo and behold! The 2018 elections are around the corner.