Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the road to a fractured mandate

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the road to a fractured mandate


Peshawar Valley and Malakand will decide the ultimate winner

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By Raja Arsalan Khan

Will Khyber Pakhtunkhwa revert to a fractured mandate and coalition government on February 8? It seems so after the PTI gained a massive majority in 2018, albeit after controversial elections, as a unique achievement for a province where the voters mostly produce unclear results with the provincial assembly seats shared among several parties.

If anyone had doubts about a future coalition while citing so-called popularity enjoyed by the PTI in the province thanks to his incarcerated and disqualified founding chairman, the Supreme Court’s party symbol verdict should remove these.

But even if the “bat” was there, the chances of repeating a 2018 in 2024 were more than slim, as the PTI didn’t have the support for producing the “miracle” like back then. In the absence of such a scenario, the only hope could be Taliban or the TTP targeting the rival parties to stop them from an effective electioneering.

Ask anyone from the ANP how it has been achieved in the past.

No one can deny that the PTI has a strong support base in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the very presence of PTI-Parliamentarians means that the voters would be divided as Pervez Khattak knows and understands how the constituency-based politics works as well as how the PTI was created and promoted.

Read more: No! Pakistan doesn't need you in 2024

Also, the PTI’s performance during its 10-year rule in the province didn’t achieve anything. The 18th Amendment was and is still there. There was nothing to stop the ruling party from delivering the promises it has made, especially in education and health sectors.

With the PTI lacking the “fuel supply” and “immunity”, the voters – especially the silent one and those on the fences – as well as the political parties have the room to act freely. In simple words, the parliamentary size of parties like JUI-F, PML-N and ANP was bound to increase even in the presence of “bat”. And their chances have only improved further in its absence.


It’s origins dates back to the Musharraf regime. It was period when the MMA was formed for the reasons known to everyone – a move that solidified the right-wing or conservative forces. People were anxious for an alternative and the “imperial forces” had just invaded Afghanistan. So the religious parties were able to attract the people who helped the alliance replacing the traditional political elders with ordinary clerics across the province.

However, something was missing – a strong leader, messiah, a hero, a gladiator who never tests defeat, who is immune from all the evil forces and lead the folks to a corruption-less and corrupt-less state where every problem could be resolved in 90 days. That’s why the October 30 theatrics worked at their best in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – the mindset had found the solution in shape of 1992 World Cup winner.

As many started believing in his immortal status, the remaining task was completed by the post-truth social media world as the mainstream TV anchors assumed the charge of kingmakers.

But it won’t fair if one doesn’t mention the political sin committed by Nawaz Sharif in 2013 when he decided to gift Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the PTI against the advice of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other political minds who could feel what was coming.

Either playing to the gallery – bookish liberals and clueless progressive commentators – or listening to the wrong advisers or a combination of both or his own post-Charter of Democracy (CoD) instincts, Nawaz enabled a prototype to get the required stage and plan for the future, the results of which can be seen everywhere.

Thus, Nawaz Sharif, who is a master of traditional politics, somehow took a decision that negated the very essence of realpolitik which is the only form working in countries in Pakistan.

End result? A fascist leader formally gaining access to the state resources, powers and force sans which such forces can’t survive for long. Anyone not agreeing can recheck what has happened during the past two years.

Meanwhile, the rise of PTI left all the others weakened and bruised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


As discussed in an earlier report, the JUI-F, ANP, PML-N and PPP had developed a deadlock over seat adjustment to form a joint front with the sole aim of countering the PTI. There has been no progress as the election schedule entered the stage of ballot papers printing.

It is the Peshawar valley which comprises the most populated districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan and Swabi – and Malakand that proved to be the main hurdle, as all these parties want a share in the two regions.

Reaching a deal on seat adjustment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – and that too among four parties – was already a very difficult, if not impossible, exercise, but the PTI losing the party symbol means there is even more incentives for not developing an understanding.

Barring the remote possibility of a last-minute deal in a few constituencies, seat adjustment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is no more feasible for any of the sides.


Traditionally, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been divided into four regions for political reasons: Peshawar Valley, Hazara, Malakand and southern Pakhtunkhwa. However, the merged districts of erstwhile tribal region add another twist to the equation thanks to the particular socioeconomic structures.

As discussed earlier, the main battle would be fought in the Peshawar Valley with 41 out of a total of 115 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly general seats on offer. If ANP can’t gain an overwhelming majority here, it won’t be among the top two parties. One of the competitors is out.

The second biggest prize is Malakand with 30 seats followed by southern Pakhtunkhwa 25 and Hazara 18.

So we should begin with the PML-N given that the Nawaz Sharif-led party is most likely to grab Islamabad. However, the distribution of seats shows that the party’s stronghold, Hazara, has the least number of seats, meaning that it must perform well in at least two other regions – Malakand and Peshawar.

It is certainly Herculean task with the central party leadership not giving enough time and resources to the province. But the absence of “bat”, the presence of Khattak factor and the failure to reach a settle on seat adjustment may increase its chances.

Next comes the JUI-F, which would have to perform well in southern Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawar Valley and Malakand. Hazara doesn’t offer much except one or two constituencies in Battagram and Kohistan.

However, the equation for ANP never changes as it must bulldoze through Peshawar Valley and catch the largest share in Malakand.

What about the PPP? Well! It will look for seats here and there barring Hazara. One has to see whether Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has the charisma to change his party’s fortunes.

Meanwhile, we also have the unknown commodity – Pervez Khattak – to see whether his understanding of electoral politics would produce any results.

Lastly, we may have a sizeable size of independents who always tend to support the party with the maximum chances of forming the government.

In this scenario, the inability to ensure seat adjustment in the province is actually the lack of will – the right approach adopted by everyone involved in the process. Only the strongest should be the winner and the battlefield is the best arena to decide the matter.

But whatever the case maybe, those sitting on the Peshawar throne would be a coalition formed after political wheeling and dealing days or weeks after the polling day.