Faisal Kundi’s withdrawal may benefit PTI in NA-37


Expert says delimitation can also affect MMA vote bank


ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam–Fazl (JUI-F), once a popular political force in the southern parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), has witnessed a drastic decline in its popularity due to Maulana Fazlur Reham’s self-centered and family-centric political approach.

That is why like other districts of southern districts of KP, the JUI-F has to face a tough challenge from its arch rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in constituency NA-37, Tank District.

Muttahida Majlis Amal’s (MMA) fielded Maulana Asad Mehmood, son of Maulana Fazal Rehman, while PTI nominated ex-provincial minister Habibullah Khan Kundi and PTI ex-MNA Dawar Kundi will contest the election as an independent candidate after quitting the party.

However, a tough fight is expected between MMA candidate Asad and PTI nominee Habibullah Kundi. As per census 2017, Tank has population around 391,885 of which rural population is 344,720, while urban population is 47,165.

The constituency was created in 2018 by bifurcating NA-25 (Dera Ismail Khan-cum-Tank) where Tank district shared its representation with a portion of Dera Ismail Khan.

The current constituency completely comprises Tank district, while the Dera Ismail Khan areas of the old constituency are now included in NA-38 (Dera Ismail Khan-I) and NA-39 (Dera Ismail Khan-II).

The delimitation could affect the vote bank of MMA because Daraban, Kulachi, Parova and Paharpur tehsil are now part of NA-38 and NA-39 constituencies since it also included area of Maulana Fazl Rehman’s native town where his party always got considerable lead.

In addition, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate and former deputy speaker of National Assembly Faisal Kareem Kundi’s decision of quitting the race for NA-37 in favour of PTI candidate could give a considerable boost to Habibullah’s chances since the former secured 46,262 votes in 2013 general election.

In by-elections, JUI-F chief fielded his son Asad who faced defeat at the hand of PTI candidate Dawar Khan Kundi.

The JUI-F local leaders and workers are greatly disappointed by their party’s chief decision to field his son again in the constituency despite his defeat in the by-election in 2013 while the local leaders could damage the party despite the fact they did not express their dissent publically.

A senior journalist from the area, Muner Akhtar told Pakistan Today that situation for Asad was quite challenging due to the severe differences among JUI-F local leadership.

He said that JUI-F leadership made all out efforts to convince voters, however they got little success, adding that JUI-F always lost elections in the main city and it depended on votes of union councils mainly inhibited by Kundi and Bettani tribes.

However, Muner said that since Ghulam Badshah Bettani was in the race; therefore Bettani and Kundi votes would go to Habibullah Kundi and Ghulam Badshah Bettani.

Muner said that Faisal’s withdrawal of nomination papers in favour of PTI candidate made the electoral battle more interesting, as it made things further complicated for MMA candidate.