PM Imran pins blame of PTI’s lackluster performance in KP LG polls on ‘wrong candidate selection’

A day after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was upset on multiple seats in the first phase of local government elections held in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said his party “made mistakes” as he pinned the blame of a lackluster poll performance on “wrong candidate selection”.

To make sure the mistakes are not repeated, the prime minister said, he would “personally oversee” the party strategy for the second phase of the elections scheduled to be held next month.

“PTI made mistakes in [the] first phase of KP LG elections and paid the price,” he tweeted. “Wrong candidate selection was a major cause.

“From now on I will personally be overseeing PTI’s LG election strategy in [the] second phase of KP LG elections & LG elections across Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has urged PTI leadership and workers to set aside their differences and unite under PM Imran’s leadership.

“If the PTI is weakened at this time then the country will fall to the wolves,” Chaudhry tweeted

On the other hand, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif termed the PTI’s poor performance “an expression of people’s anger over the back-breaking inflation, crushing price hike and the meltdown of governance”.

“The people of KP have rejected the PTI […] It is the beginning of the end of an experiment that has cost the nation dearly.

PM Imran and Chaudhry’s remarks came on the heels of a dismal performance by the PTI in KP polls that saw it concede ground to the opposition, and especially rival party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F).

The JUI-F managed to grab the highest number of mayor/chairman seats in the elections for 39 tehsils of KP held on Sunday.

According to the provisional results of 39 of the 63 tehsils declared by the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday, the JUI-F not only won 15 seats of mayor/chairman but also gave a tough fight in many other tehsils where its candidates stood as runners-up.

In the provincial capital, the JUI-F stunned the PTI and has a definitive lead in the contest for the mayor of Peshawar city. JUI-F candidate Haji Zubair Ali secured 62,388 votes against 50,659 votes secured by PTI’s Rizwan Bangash.

Of the remaining six tehsil chairman seats of Peshawar, the JUI-F managed to clinch four while the PTI could get one seat of tehsil chairman from the provincial capital.

It is for the first time that the JUI-F made its mark in the provincial capital, far from its traditional power base of southern KP. Interestingly, the JUI-F also emerged victorious in Charsadda, beating the Awami National Party (ANP) at the home turf. Also, the JUI-F emerged powerful in Mardan, where its candidate lost the mayor seat to the ANP with a margin of 6,000 votes.

In Mardan, the JUI-F secured three seats and the ANP emerged victorious on two of the five tehsil seats.

In Nowshera, the PTI and ANP grabbed one seat of tehsil chairman each, while the result from the third tehsil was awaited. PTI candidate Ishaq Khattak, son of Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, won the seat by securing over 49,000 votes against the JUI-F candidate who secured over 40,000 votes.

In Swabi, the JUI-F, PML-N and the ANP and the PTI won a tehsil chairman seat each.

Of the three Kohat tehsils, the JUI-F candidate and an independent secured one chairman seat each, while the results of third tehsil were awaited.

In Bannu, the JUI-F emerged victorious in one of the six tehsils, while results of the five remaining tehsils were awaited.

Also, both tehsils of Tank were won by the JUI-F.

However, in Dera Ismail Khan — the hometown of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — provisional results of four of the six tehsils showed the PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami, PPP and an independent secured one tehsil chairman seat each.

In Buner district, the ruling PTI showed strength by winning four of the six chairman seats. The result of one tehsil was still awaited, while another went to the ANP.

In Haripur, the PML-N got two seats, while the third seat went to an independent.

While results of the remaining tehsils have not been declared, the JUI-F was said to be leading in six tehsils, the PTI in four, independent three, the ANP in two and the PPP in one tehsil.

Reasons for unexpected performances

It is too early to pinpoint the exact reasons for the sudden rise of the JUI-F at this moment. However, political observers believe many factors, including geopolitical shifts battering the region, failures of the ruling PTI and Rehman’s more than three years of efforts to mobilise his electoral base led to this outcome.

Analysts and the inner circle of the JUI-F believe that Rehman’s steady campaign against the prime minister was one of the factors that inspired the people to cast vote in favour of the JUI-F.

“There are several factors, which could be attributed to the better performance of JUI-F, but people fully expressed their lack of trust in the PTI due to its poor governance, inflation and delivery of services,” said Professor Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, who teaches international relations in the University of Peshawar.

In the first phase, the local bodies’ elections were held in 17 districts of the province on Sunday, while local government polls in the remaining districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be conducted on January 16, 2022.