PESHAWAR - Like past, this time too neck and neck contest is expected between Jamaat-e-Islam (JI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on the lone National Assembly seat, NA-34, and four KPK Assembly constituencies in Lower Dir district in the scheduled May 11 general elections.JI and PPP have always been proved archrival in Lower Dir. However, political pundits say that this time it will not be an easy job for the old guards as PTI, an emerging political force, is too making inroads in the district.The area comprises one National Assembly NA-34 seat and four constituencies for provincial assembly that include PK-94,95,96 and 97.According to an official data, number of total registered voters is 4,90,042, of which 2,90,968 are male and 1,99,074 are female. In the coming polls, a total of 50 candidates are in the run, including JI, PML-N, PPP, PTI, JUI-F, QWP and ANP. Being male dominated society, district Lower Dir, where womenfolk could not exercised its right of vote in the past owing to cultural norms. However, this time all political and religious parties have placated not to bar this half of the passive population from voting. Elections in NA-34 are going to be historic as a female determined aspirant Nusrat Begum is too contesting polls as an independent candidate challenging her male counterparts.Apparently, NA-34 is considered a stronghold of JI due to the voters’ staunch and distinguished religious tendencies towards this political-cum-religious faction. In past, former JI Ameer Qazi Hussain Ahmad and JI backed candidates had won elections from this constituency. But here the archrival PPP so many times defeated the JI or got full benefit of its boycott. In 2008 polls, JI’s boycott provided ‘a piece of cake’ to its confronter Malik Azmat Khan of PPP-P who won the seat by bagging 38,068 votes while ANP candidate Muhammad Ayub with a huge margin of 13,585 ballots remained runner-up.This time, a tough race will be expected between PPP’s Malik Azmat and Sahibzada Yaqoob of JI. As according to political observers, there is no chance for JUI-F’s Qazi Fazal Ullah and ANP’s Muhammad Azam Khan to win the seat.Political pundits say MNA Malik Azamt who has been state minister in PPP’s last government, failed completely to come to the expectation of his electorates by initiating any mega developmental project in his constituency. Apart from, there has been grouping within PPP in the district and landing of no sagacious politician on behalf of ANP will provide an ample opportunity to JI to grab NA-34.PTI, an emerging political force on the horizon and visit of Imran Khan to Lower Dir district may not change hype into reality, as securing any victory in the district is too early at this stage. Moreover, the party has no potential candidate to alter the status quo there and its landed candidate Muhammad Bashir Khan is not politically so sage to attract the general voters.Likewise, political and religious parties and independents are too face to face on all four KPK seats PK-94 to PK-97. More than 40 nominees are trying their luck for the provincial assembly constituencies. Like in NA-34, tough contests have even been held between JI and PPP in the past on these KPK seats. Mehmood Zeb Khan, former PPP provincial minister and former JI MPA Muzaffar Said and ANP’s Mohammad Ayub will face to face on PK-94. The latter had lost to PPP’s Malik Azmat by obtaining 24,480 votes contesting on NA-34. In the coming polls, it seems that Mehmood Zeb will be the tough contestant for Muzaffar Saeed as he is allegedly backing by PPP Senator Ahmad Hassan Khan. The JI Muzaffar Saeed has won the seat under the banner of MMA in 2002. The history of PK-95 is totally different from rest of the three provincial constituencies. The PPP, JI and ANP were the actual contenders while PPP has not much vote bank in the area to secure the seat.The JI candidate Sardar Alam Bacha had succeeded several times from this constituency. In 1993 elections, for the first time, the ANP landed its candidate Haji Bahdur Khan for the seat. After that, JI candidate Siraj-ul-Haq battled the 2002 elections from MMA platform and revived the party past electoral glory. Later on, he had sworn in as senior minister in former MMA government. In 2008 elections, JI announced boycott, which had led its activist Hidayat Ullah Khan to say goodbye to party and joined ANP on condition of awarding party ticket. As a result, he fought 2008 polls from ANP platform and not only secured his seat easily but also got the provincial ministry in ANP-led coalition government. Now the situation is totally changed as more than 16 candidates are landed for next polls. A tug of war for seat is expected between two diverse ideologies-JI and ANP. The JI Central Vice Ameer Siraj-ul-Haq and ANP former provincial minister Hidayat Ullah will see each other neck and neck. The third force in the area is Malik Rehmat Khan of PPP but he is politically drowsy and dormant. Former ANP ideological MPA parted ways with the party, battling for the seat as an independent candidate. Now cracks have been appeared in ANP ranks as party divided into two groups, Bahadur Khan and Hidayat Ullah. In PK-96, former MPA Saeed Gul will face Muhammad Zamin Khan of PPP. The former had won the election from MMA platform while the later had fully exploited the JI boycott by securing his seat in 2008 general elections. Intra-party row is also widening in this constituency as Zahir Shah of PPP has decided to join the electoral battlefield as an independent candidate, which could also affect vote bank of Zamin. While PK-97 will prove a hard battlefield where 16 candidates will pitch against each other. The JI Sultanat Yar, JUI-F Deputy Chief Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan, PPP Dr Zakir Ullah, Qumi Watan Party (QWP) Provincial Secretary Bakht Baidar Khan and ANP Hussain Shah are at loggerheads with one another. Dr Zakir Ullah, who named the seat several times from JI platform switched over to PPP just ahead of 2008 elections where JI was in boycott. He got hold of the seat from PPP platform by taking benefit from JI boycott. JUI-F Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan is totally strange for voters in the area. Like others, Sulatanat Yar is also for the first time contesting the PK seat. He may attract PPP’s annoyed voters. QWP Bakht Baidar had secured the seat with the PPP platform but later on he left PPP and joined QWP. Pakistan Sunni Tehrik (PST) allotted ticket for the same to Zeen-Ul-Arifeen whose party representing the Brelvi school of thought. In past, PST remained hand-in-hand with Bakht Baidar because it had no candidate. Insiders revealed that this religious outfit could affect Bakht Baidar’s votes. Furthermore, Political observers argue that Bakht Baidar will loos many votes in Asbanr and Chakdara-Ramora union councils. Anyhow, they are of the opinion the battle is on and both Sultanat Yar and Bakht Baidar will be proved harsh contenders for each one. Candidates have steamed up their electioneering and electoral hustles, bustles are getting momentum as polls coming closer. History and prevailing situations are favouring JI and it seemed that it might clean sweep in the district. Anyhow, it is too early to forecast about elections. Let us wait a little as May 11 will accurately show where the dust settle.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 04-May-2013 here.