SLAMABAD, March 24: Former president Pervez Musharraf finally landed in Karachi on Sunday despite mounting threats to his life.
As the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already announced the schedule for the elections, his homecoming has special significance for the future politics of Chitral. The former president launched work on the mega Lowari Tunnel project in 2005 but after coming to power the PPP suspended the work at the site citing lack of funds. Musharraf says he loves the people of Chitral and the people of Chitral love him. He has decided to contest the elections from Chitral.
ChitralToday talked to a number of prominent Chitralis belonging to different walks of life to know their impressions about Musharraf’s arrival in the country after about four years and his prospects of winning the elections, if he contests, from Chitral.
Prof Dr Inayatullah Faizi: Dr Faizi is an intellectual and well-knowN writer and author. For the last many decades, he has been writing regularly about Chitral’s culture, traditions and history. He also has a strong grip on national issues and writes daily and weekly columns, called Dad Bedaad, for Peshawar-abased Urdu newspapers. About Musharraf’s contesting elections from Chitral, Dr Faizi said in 2010 former MNA Shahzada Mohiuddin (PML-Q) along with some ex-nazims of Chitral had invited Musharraf to contest elections from Chitral. He said there were three factors in support of Musharraf at that time:
“Shahzada Mohiuddin, the former nazims and suspension of work on the Lowari Tunnel. Now all the three factors are gone, he added. He said Shahzada Mohiuddin has retired from active politics due to falling health, the ex-nazims have been wooed back by the PPP and their leader Sartaj Ahmed is being given ticket for a provincial assembly seat of Chitral. The third factor due to which the people of Chitral were angry with the PPP-led government has also gone and work on the tunnel is going on in full swing for the last six months. He said if the former president contests the elections from Chitral, he would not be able to get more than 3,000 (three thousand) votes.
To win the elections for the National Assembly seat of Chitral (NA-32), one has to bag over 30,000 votes. Nusrat Bhutto won the seat with over 38,000 votes and Mohiuddin reached the assembly in 2008 with 33,000 votes, he added. “If Salim Khan contests for the NA seat, will the people of Garam Chashma vote for Musharraf; if Abdul Akbar contests for the seat, will Jamaat-i-Islami vote for Musharraf; if Saeed Ahmed stands, will the people of his area (Tor Khow) vote for Musharraf,” Dr Faizi asked.
Sam Saam Ali Khan Advocate: Sam Saam Ali Khan is a senior lawyer from upper Chitral and is based in Karachi. Back home, he was also active in local government elections. Mr Ali said the people of Chitral respected Musharraf for constructing the Lowari Tunnel. The construction of the Lowari Tunnel has changed the fate of Chitral and the people of the area are indebted to Musharraf. Secondly, he added, Musharraf has been talking very high of the people of Chitral all over the world.
Mohammad Ali Mujahid: Mujahid is the chief editor of Shandur Magazine and has been publishing the weekly for the last over 15 years first from Karachi and now from Peshawar. He said if Musharraf or even his wife contested elections from Chitral, over 70 per cent of the people would vote for him. He said he had been visiting all areas of Chitral and had got the impression that Musharraf was very popular among the Chitralis. People of Chitral never forgot the services of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and have been voting for his family for the last so many decades. Musharraf has also done great favours for the people of this backward valley, so there is no question that the people of Chitral would forget his services. They would vote for him in complete disregard to their party affiliations. In reply to a question, he said as a former president and ex-chief of the army staff Musharraf would still be in a better position to serve the area. He said that political parties had failed to deliver and this can be judged from the performance of the elected representatives during the last five years.
Maulana Mohammad Ashraf said it did not suit well for a former president of Pakistan and an ex-army chief to contest election for a single NA seat in Chitral. He said Musharraf has no political future as he has no political party to play an active and sustainable role in politics.
Rehmat Ali Jaffar Dost: Dost is an active social worker from Booni and has been working for environment protection for the last many years. He is also a very popular and non-controversial figure of Chitral. He said he keeps on visiting and meeting the people in the whole valley of Chitral and outside as well round the year. He said Musharraf is the biggest benefactor of Chitral and people, especially women of the valley, have welcomed Musharraf’s return to the country. He said if Musharraf contested the elections from NA 32, the securities of his rivals would be forfeited.
Retired Subedar Sarfaraz Shah said it would be premature to talk about Musharraf’s winning the elections. He said the KPK government would never give security clearance for the former president’s entry into the Malakand division, so his contesting the polls was out of question.
Qazi Jalal from Singor, who runs flying coach service between Chitral and Booni, said, “I and my entire family have been staunch supporters of Jamat-e-Islami (JI) but this time we will vote for Musharraf despite my strong political affiliation with the JI.
Mr Asad, the owner of a general store at old PIA Chowk in Chitral Bazaar, said we Chitralis cannot pay back the debt we owe to Musharraf. He did every thing for us. Lowari tunnel is the best example. Shakil Ahmed, a lecturer in Computer Science at Govt Degree College Chitral, said Musharraf will stage a sweeping victory if he contests from Chitral. He said he visited his native village of Laspur a few days back and found the people of Laspur valley excited after watching on TV channels the news of Musharraf’s comeback. They will vote en bloc for Musharraf, he added.
Zuhur Ilahi from Broz, who recently graduated from Peshawar University in international relations, said, “I’d prefer Musharraf on other candidates for two reasons. First, he added, Musharraf did a lot for Chitral and secondly he can lure international donors towards Chitral because of his popularity and links abroad. M. Ghaffar Khan, a Chitrali working in Islamabad, said I have never voted in the past but if Musharraf comes, I will go and vote for him. He said local politicians had done nothing for the working class. We suffered a lot while coming to Islamabad and going back. Now the construction of the tunnel has resolved our big issue, he added. Didarul Mulk, Waqar Ahmed, Mir Dullah Khan and Meraj Wali said they would also vote for Musharraf along with their families.–Additional reporting from Chitral by Waqar Ahmed.