Chitral voters expected to maintain high turnout record
CHITRAL: Close contest is expected for the one National Assembly and two Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seats of Chitral with voters going to the polls in a large number on Thursday.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are a total of 313,550 voters for elections 2024 in Chitral.
In 2018, the overall turnout in the constituency had remained 60.96 per cent while women’s turnout was as high as 61. 57 per cent.
This year, 172 polling stations have been set up in Lower Chitral and 140 in Upper Chitral. Out of the total polling stations in Lower Chitral, 18 have been categorized as highly sensitive, 65 sensitive and the remaining 88 as normal.
Moreover, 11 polling stations have been declared highly sensitive and 15 sensitive in Upper Chitral.
In the elections 2018, Molana Abdul Akbar of the then JI and JUI-F alliance (MMA) had won the NA seat with 48,616 votes. The PTI’s Abdul Latif had scored 38,481 votes. Other candidates along with their votes were: Saleem Khan of PPP (32,635 votes), Iftikharuddin of PML-N (21,016), Muhammad Amjad of APML (6,755), Eidul Hussain of ANP (3,613), Saeedur Rehman of Rahe Haq Party (3,223), Shahzada Muhammad Taimur Khusrow (2,414), Nisar Dastagir, independent, (793), Muhamamd Yahya, independent, (698) and Taqdira Ajmal, independent, (681 votes.
The then only provincial assembly seat was also grabbed by the MMA. Now, Chitral’s second seat in the KP assembly has also been restored.
Elections 2024 in Chitral
This time around, the two religious parties have fielded their own candidates for the three seats with JUI-F bringing in Talha Mahmood from outside Chitral for the National Assembly seat.
Talha Mahmood has been accused of openly using money besides distributing ration through his charity organization to buy votes.
Despite complaints lodged with the district returning officers of Chitral Lower and Upper and notice taken by the ECP, no action was taken against him for violating the election rules.
Though the PTI is facing a very hard time since its government was ousted in April 2022, and its candidates were initially denied a level-playing field, the party succeeded to garner public support and arranged impressive meetings across Chitral.
In 2018, PML-N candidate Shahzada Iftikharuddin could score 21,000 votes though his party’s government had spent billions of rupees on development projects in Chitral, including the Lowari tunnel and Golen Gol power project.
In the 2024 elections, the PML-N is promising to launch new projects besides completing the ones it had approved during its previous tenure such as the Garam Chashma road and installation of gas plants in Chitral.
A senior leader of the PML-N in Upper Chitral told ChitralToday that voters in Chitral had three main options to elect their representatives: affiliation and loyalty with any party or its leadership, development of Chitral through a competent personality or a short-term monetary benefit. He said among the contestants for the NA seat, the PML-N candidate was the best option.
A PTI office-bearer wishing not to be named told ChitralToday that despite unfavorable political situation and cold weather the party workers and activists would succeed in mobilizing the voters to come out and vote for the PTI candidates.
He said Chitrali youth living outside Chitral were also reaching home to cast their votes. This gives the PTI an edge over candidates of other parties.
For the two provincial assembly seats of Upper and Lower Chitral (PK-1 and PK-2), PTI’s Suriya Bibi and PTI-P’s Shahzada Khalid Pervez seem to be in a leading position though Salim Khan of the PPP may turn the tables with his strong vote bank in Garam Chashma.