Special Report by Muhammad Javed
MASTUJ (CHITRAL), April 26: For the first time in the recent history, people of Mastuj, Laspur and Yarkhun valleys seem to be united against discriminatory treatment they have been facing at the hands of successive governments as well as their own elected representatives.
A random survey carried out by ChitralToday (chitraltoday.net) in the area showed that this time majority of people are going to vote not on the basis of party affiliation but keeping in view the interests of the area.
Some of the residents told this correspondent that on April 10, 2013, there was a meeting of local elders in Mastuj where Shahzada Sikendar was asked why he had decided to contest the election as an independent candidate. In reply, he said that during the previous government, Shahzada Mohiuddin’s son spent all the development funds amounting to Rs100 million in lower Chitral to pave way for his election from PK-89. He said no penny was spent on the development of Mastuj. Besides, he was denied ticket from the APML and as a result, he said, he decided to run for the seat of upper Chitral as an independent candidate. In the meantime, a Jirga will soon be held in Mastuj to decide whom to vote for the National Assembly seat.
Pervez Musharraf: Most of the people here said the day former President Pervez Musharraf landed in Karachi with the plan to contest elections from Chitral they had forgotten party affiliations and decided to vote for him. However, they added, the rejection of Musharraf’s papers and his arrest changed the scene altogether.
Musharraf had launched the abandoned Lowari tunnel project for the best interest of Chitral. But for Mastuj, he did more than that. Look at the RCC bridge in Mastuj, Shandur road and sanctioning of a project to black-top the Booni-Mastuj road. The wireless loop telephones were also launched during the Musharraf era, they added. Besides, Musharraf came to Shandur every year and announced development projects for Chitral. Even during one of the Shandur festivals when Musharraf announced projects for Chitral, people from Giglit-Baltistan shouted “You are giving too much to Chitralis,” said some residents here. But when asked if they would vote for the candidates of Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), most of the residents answered in the negative.
The people here said that political parties had always nominated candidates from other areas like Booni, Torkhow and Morkhow who after reaching the assemblies did nothing for the area. They said in the recent past people belonging to Torkhow, Molkhow and lower Chitral elected on the votes of Mastuj did never bother even to visit the area north of Tau bridge. In the 2013 elections too, no political party has nominated anyone from this area.
The main candidates for the provincial assembly seat of PK-90 are: Sardar Hussain (PPP from Booni), Shah Wazir (ANP-Booni), Rehmat Ghazi (PTI, Charun village), Maulana Ghulam Muhammad (JI Chumorkhon in lower Chitral), Haji Ghulam Muhammad (APML, Booni), Maulana Hussain Ahmed (JUI-Torkhow) and Sayed Ahmad Khan of PML-N (Torkhow).
Most of the prominent people of Mastuj who had been in the forefront in electioneering for major political parties in the past have now decided to support Shahzada Sikendar ul-Mulk, an independent candidate for the provincial assembly seat of PK-90. In the past Amirullah Khan Yaftali of Laspur had backed Maulana Jehangir against the PML. In Mastuj, Haji Hayat Khan was a strong supporter of Shahzada Mohiuddin and Ghulam Mohammad but now both these two men are canvassing for Shahzada Sikendar. Not only these, there are Zafar Ahmed Laal, Emaduddin, Sardar Jan, Qazi Jamaluddin of the JUI, who was an aspirant for the JUI ticket, who are also supporting Shahzada Sikendar. Besides, Sardar Ahmed Siddiqui of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Mr Liaquat of Sor-Laspur (PPP) have also joined hands with Sikendar. The main reason behind all these people’s switching loyalties is that someone from Mastuj area should have been nominated by the political parties for the provincial assembly seat. They said Shahzada Sikendar at least deserved the ticket of the APML but it was given to Ghulam Mohammad.
ChitralToday talked to different people on their views about different political parties and the forthcoming elections.
Sharif Nizar: This man says that all people in the area were the voters of Musharraf till his papers were rejected and he was detained in Islamabad. Now voting for his APML candidates is a futile exercise because they have already been tested and they have failed to deliver. He said now he would vote for independent candidate Shahzada Sikendar because he belongs to his area. He also said ideological voters of different political parties would still vote for their parties. He also said the PPP government did lots of good work for its employees but ignored the common people. He said the PPP had lost public sympathy and its leadership was corrupt.
Ali Nawaz: This man seemed to be a diehard supporter of the PPP and said workers would vote for the party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. However, he hastened to add that had Musharraf contested the election he would have cast vote for him.
Ali Nizar: “After the disqualification of Musharraf, political scene in our area has changed. Now the APML will not get votes. Had Musharraf’s party nominated new people we would have voted for them.” He also said Imran Khan’s party was new that is why it would get votes.
Wazir Khan: This man said those now contesting the elections from the APML did nothing for our area when they were in power. He said Shahzada Sikendar would win with a big majority. He said among the political leaders Abdul Akbar of JI was the only man who did lots of work for the area. He said Abdul Akbar did hard work to persuade Musharraf to initiate work on the Lowari tunnel. Abdul Akbar also constructed new schools and roads, he added. He also said that there were quite a large number of PTI supporters in the area but most of them were aged below 18 years and had no voting right. He said the candidates of the PTI in the area were not good. Despite its claims that tickets would be given to the youth PTI nominated a former bureaucrat for PK-90.
Sher Ahmed: People here love Musharraf but they do not trust the candidates of his party. He said most of the locals would vote for Sikendar.
Hassan Gul: Hassan Gul is the president of PPP Chinar village. He said at the moment the situation was not clear and after a few days it would be clear who is leading. He said people would vote keeping in view the personality and services of the candidates.
Ejaz Ali Shah: This man said Musharraf did a lot for the people of area. The former president built the Lowari tunnel, Mastuj bridge, Shandur road and launched many other projects. But to vote for Ghulam Mohammad is useless.
There are 10 union councils in upper Chitral which makes the provincial assembly constituency. The population of upper Chitral, according to 1998 census, was 133,815 – 66,583 males and 67,232 females. The 10 union councils and the number of voters in each UC are: Oveer (8,652), Kosht (8,594) Mol Khow (8,674), Terich (7,351) Shagram (8,558), Khot (9,305), Charun (10,605), Laspur (9,272), Mastuj (9,284) and Yarkhun (8,570).