As the expected general elections at the beginning of the next year draw near, political activities are in full swing in the northern regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the Malakand and Hazara Divisions. However, this time, political parties and their candidates are surrounded by many concerns.
According to the 2023 census data, following the notification of constituency and boundary delimitations by the Election Commission, an increase in population in the Shangla district has led to the addition of a provincial constituency there.
This means the previous Tehsil Chakesar of PK-24 and Union Council Ranial and Kuzkana of PK-23 have been amalgamated into a new constituency. This new constituency will be known as PK-29 Shangla II and will encompass the areas of Tehsil Besham, Tehsil Chakesar, and Tehsil Alpuri, with a population of approximately 260,000.
The local leadership of several political parties and prospective candidates seem to be worried about the formation of the new constituency.
This is because they had previously established their voter base in the former PK-23 and the current PK-28 Shangla-I constituencies. However, with the inclusion of Tehsil Chakesar, they now face the challenge of campaigning and gaining the support of the people in the new constituency before the elections.
Earlier, former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of the assembly and former provincial cabinet member Shaukat Ali Yousafzai was considered the favourite candidate to win Constituency 28 as he had done a lot of development work in this constituency and also provided jobs to many people. However, if he decides to participate in the elections from the new constituency, namely PK-29, it may be more challenging for him to secure a seat this time.
Shaukat Yousafzai alleges that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) provincial president Amir Muqam has a hand in the addition of the new constituency and its delimitation. He says that Amir Muqam changed the constituency to contest the election from here.
According to Shaukat Yousafzai, Amir Muqam was afraid that he would not be able to defeat him, so he created a new constituency in collaboration with the Election Commission and merged Besham with Chekesar.
“I have carried out development work worth billions in the former PK-23 constituency and established a strong voter base there, which made my victory in the elections certain. But I am confident that the people in Chakesar will also support me.”
Similarly, the President of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Malakand Division and prospective candidate Dr Afsar-ul-Mulk Khan, says that the Union Council Koz Kana and Ranial Sub Tehsil Kana is in his hands; he has always received a large number of votes from here.
Dr Afsar-ul-Mulk also alleges that Amir Muqam has divided Alpuri and Kana as he will contest from PK 28 on the provincial seat this time.
Dr Afsar ul Mulk is concerned that, by getting a significant number of votes from Koz Kana and Ranial Union Councils, he could have won the seat of PK-28, where he has previously served as an MPA.
He says that he’d submit objections regarding the two Union Councils before the date given by the Election Commission, i.e., October 25.
PML-N’s provincial president, Amir Muqam, is satisfied with the delimitation of constituencies and the addition of a new constituency. He says that Shangla is lucky that it will get development funds from three provincial assembly constituencies, and the era of development and prosperity will begin in this backward area.
He considers the new constituency distribution to be more beneficial for the public than for politicians. He asserts that this redistribution is accurate, as it has united all areas geographically, and even the administrative divisions have become harmonised.
Imad Ahmed Khan, a former candidate of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F), also supports the formation of the new constituency. He says he does not have as much vote bank in Alpuri as he can get from Chakesar, as his relatives and dear ones live there in large numbers.
Chairman of PTI Tehsil Puran and former candidate from PK-24, Abdul Mola, says that due to the new constituencies, it will be easier to conduct an election campaign here as Chakesar has been removed from his constituency. He explains that Chakesar was a remote and challenging area with many local candidates, and it was not easy for him to get votes from there. In contrast, he now has to focus on the Puran and Martung tehsils, where, according to him, he can achieve success more easily.
Faisal Zeb, a former MPA from Awami National Party (ANP) in the same constituency, is also content with the new constituency. He believes that the area is significant and that the separation of the Chakesar tehsil has made things easier for him. He also anticipates that the additional constituencies in Shangla will lead to increased development funds for the region.
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During the constituency delimitation process, no changes were made in the Upper, Lower Kohistan and Kolai-Palas districts. They were designated constituencies 31, 32, and 33, respectively.
Similarly, there were no changes in the constituency delimitation in the Torghar district.
In contrast, in the Battagram district, the village councils of Thakot, Bishkot, Hotal, Deeshan, and Pashora were included in Allai Constituency 34. These were previously part of Constituency 35.
Local people object to the inclusion of Battagram areas in Allai. On the contrary, the political parties in Battagram are pleased with this decision.
Former PTI MPA Zubair Khan, who belongs to Allai, says that the new boundaries defined for his constituency will cause difficulties for the area’s people to access Allai and campaign there in the upcoming elections.
Ali Bhash Khan, a former coordinator of the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in the Shangla district, expresses his desire for more constituencies and increased funds for the welfare of the people. He also thinks that MPAs should belong to nearby communities in the same area to be easily accessible to the public.
He believes that the benefits of the new constituency and boundary delimitation will become evident after the elections.
Published on 13 Oct 2023