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NA-1: The Tsunami Breaker

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By the morning of May 12th, PTI’s tsunami had officially swept through Peshawar valley. This was a victory that was mostly at the expense of the ANP, thus prompting many to declare it to be a spent force, the strongest proof of which was the routing of Ghulam Ahmad Bilour on NA-1 and that too with a mammoth margin of 66 thousand votes. But yet, just two months later, Ghulam Bilour has reclaimed his seat.

So what happened exactly?

One explanation paints the PTI as being alone against an alliance of ANP, PPP, and JUI-F and thus overwhelmed by its experienced opposition. But then that is factually incorrect as PTI had its own set of allies, including the Jamat I Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP). Furthermore, the local leadership of PML-N had also announced its support for PTI. The strength of these two alliances can be assessed from their performance during the recent general elections. On May 11th, PPP and JUI-F had a total of 11,859 votes while JI, QWP and PML-N had 12,977 votes for NA-1. Based on these numbers, PTI actually had a stronger rather than a weaker electoral alliance when compared with ANP.

The selection of Gul Bacha is another reason cited for PTI’s defeat, as he was a “non-entity”. But then just two months ago another non-entity by the name of Javed Nasim defeated Haroon Bilour on PK-3. It should be mentioned here that this is the constituency of Bashir Bilour Shaheed, one that he managed to maintain even during MMA’s whitewash of 2002. But yet despite Bashir Bilour’s martyrdom, PK-3 preferred a non-entity to his son, perhaps because the non-entity came with the name of PTI; a name that generated trust and hope.

In my opinion PTI’s defeat in NA-1 is a weakening of its ability to generate trust. It was this particular ability that allowed PTI to sweep Peshawar valley with mere non-entities. But now that trust is being squandered because of the immature behavior of its leadership and more importantly through the inability of KP government to deliver on its promises.

The immaturity of PTI’s leadership was evident in the way it dealt with Samad Mursalin. This is the same Samad Mursalin who ran from PF-2 (now PK-2, a sub constituency of NA-1) on a PTI ticket in 1997. He was the face of PTI in Peshawar city back in the 90s. One would expect that considering Samad’s long time association, Imran Khan himself would try to defuse the situation, by convincing Samad in person.

However, it appears that Imran Khan was actually avoiding Samad, and that too in the most ridiculous of manners. Apparently when Samad tried meeting with Imran Khan at the CM house Peshawar, he was tricked into going into a waiting room and then was locked inside along with his workers. They were allowed to leave only after Imran Khan had left the premises. Samad’s angry press conference after this incident was reported in the national as well as local press.

Subsequently, the provincial leadership made a few half-hearted attempts, but then publicly announced the cancellation of Samad’s membership right before election. And just for extra measure called him a “back stabber” in an official statement. Samad’s reaction to this childish behavior needs to be seen as more of a response to an insult rather than a breach of loyalty.

But would a mere ticket allocation explain this defeat? Many claim an unofficial victory for PTI by saying that the sum total of Samad’s and Gul Bacha’s votes is more than that of the ANP. However, this claim is factually incorrect, as according to ECP; Samad received a total of 1,707 votes, while Gul Bacha received 28,911. Their total of 30,681 votes is still less than that of ANP at 34,386 votes. So even if there were no splits, PTI still would have either lost this seat or managed a very close win.

Surely this massive reduction of 66,000 votes and that too within a span of two months cant only be associated with the selection of a wrong candidate. A constituency of 320,000 registered voters must have had other issues that affected its voting decision.

In my opinion this is where PTI’s performance comes into play, and 83 days is more than enough of a time to assess promises that were made to be fulfilled within 90 days. It is very clear that PTI has been unable to meet the standards of governance and conduct which it demanded of previous Government and which it promised to its voters.

But besides not being able to meet its own set standards, PTI is also struggling to match up with its predecessors. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of terrorism, an issue that is central to the terror ridden constituency of NA-1, whose Qissa Khawani bazar has been a preferred target of the Taliban.

It is no coincidence that after the arrival of PTI’s government, there has been a sudden increase in Taliban’s extortion activities in Peshawar. This has mainly affected the business community a substantial proportion of which is based in the inner city, an area that falls under NA-1.

The Government’s response has largely been ineffective as there are reports of a demoralized police force, with some officials blaming the PTI government for a lack of resolve in fighting the TTP. This lack is evident in the inability of PTI’s government to even condemn the Taliban.

On talk shows it has become a joke to get an unconditional condemnation of the TTP from KP’s ministers, with both opposition leaders as well as anchors daring PTI leaders to do so. Shaukat Yousafzai, on Nasim Zehra’s show, went to the extent of saying that he had not heard about TTP’s threats to the ANP, PPP and MQM and therefore will not condemn them.

While such wisdom buys safety for PTI’s leadership, it is also costing them the trust of the people who came out in droves to vote for PTI. It is very likely that the tsunami that began in Peshawar valley could very well end here as well and from the looks of it, the process for that might have already started.

Published in The News on the 27th of August 2013.

Written by Imran Khan

August 27, 2013 at 4:33 am

Posted in ANP, Democracy, Pakhtunkhwa, PTI, Taliban

Tagged with , ,

Peshawar’s Bravest Son

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Bashir Bilour’s speech filmed by: Irfan Ullah Paracha

Election is a time of promises. Promises backed up by past deeds. Deeds which assure of virtues. In these days of terror, courage is one virtue that everyone with a microphone is trying to sell. Some do it by likening themselves to big scary cats, while others claim to be natural disasters.

But talk is cheap as it is the walk that counts.

Fear is an inclination to avoid unwanted consequences. Courage helps overcome that inclination. The more drastic the consequence, the higher is the level of courage required to overcome it.

Consider two individuals; Asif Ali Zardari and Baitullah Mehsud. One has allegations of corruption against him, while the other has proudly owned the killing of thousands. As Pakistanis we have the right to criticize both and it should be a no-brainer as to who deserves more.

But then consider the consequences; call Zardari what ever you want and there are none, but the same isn’t true for Baitullah Mehsud.

In today’s Pakistan, death is a likely consequence for politicians who dare to criticize the Taliban. This particular fact creates a threshold that separates the lions from the goats.

Recently there has been an acute shortage of lions among our political leadership and Bashir Ahmad Bilour was one of those very few we had.

To understand Bashir Bilour’s contribution, one has to consider the plight of his region, i.e. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. This area has been subjected to one of the deadliest terror campaigns in recent history, and Bashir Bilour’s Peshawar is one of the worst hit in this region.

For his people the flash of a “breaking news” sign is a cue to panic. Panic about the loved ones who are not in physical proximity. The mangled up car shown on TV suddenly starts to look familiar, and a non-responding cellphone raises fears of injury or even death. The unlucky few realize their ultimate nightmare while the lucky majority makes a vow to submit to terror and curtails its personal freedoms.

Bashir Bilour tried liberating his people from this psychological grip of terror. And he did that through his own courageous behavior. When other leaders would mince their words to denounce Taliban massacres, Bashir Bilour would be one of the very few to boldly step forward and point his finger at the villains. After almost every bombing in Peshawar, he along with Miyaan Iftikhar (both serving ministers) would be present on the scene. A very courageous act, especially in a country where security protocols for civilian as well as military VIPs resemble small armies.

It was with this established ethos of courage and dedication that Bashir Bilour used to address his audiences. This video is of one of his last speeches; he was martyred approximately two months after this.

His speech is about hope and encouragement. He praises the people of Peshawar for their courage and unity in the face of terror. He takes on the stereotyping of Peshawar’s Hindko speakers as weaklings and tells his audience, that they should not take that from anyone because their leaders have been as steadfast as rocks in this crisis. He narrates how he refused to cower while facing a suicide bomber and how he ventured into Darra Adam Khel despite security warnings from officials.

And then he shares the secret of his strength; which is a simple belief, that the time of death has already been decided. It is a belief that is shared by most in this country, albeit with varying degrees of strength. With his own actions Bashir Bilour probably aimed to strengthen this particular belief among his terror stricken people, to a level that would enable them to live normally.

But his enemies finally got to him, and Peshawar lost one of its bravest sons.

They say fear is contagious but then so is courage, if Bashir Bilour’s targeting was intended to instill fear, then it definitely has had the reverse effect. In his martyrdom, Bashir Bilour has become a symbol of fearless defiance whose ownership has gone beyond the ANP. If the plan was to make an example out of him, then that plan has failed. He for sure has become an example, but not one to take heed from, rather one to be emulated.

Published by Pak Votes on 7th of May 2013

Written by Imran Khan

May 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

Posted in ANP, Pakhtunkhwa, Taliban

Tagged with , , ,

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