PESHAWAR - PTI Chairman Imran Khan and JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani will fight tooth and nail for NA-35 Bannu seat in the upcoming general elections scheduled for July 25, as the former has openly challenged the later at his home ground.

Bannu, a central district of southern part of the province, has mainly been won by candidates of religious parties, despite the fact that other parties also have a strong vote bank. Previously known as NA-26, now renamed as NA-35 Bannu, covers the whole Bannu district, with 578,872 registered voters.

For the July 25 elections, a total of 12 candidates are in the run for the seat. They include Maulana Mufti Islam Noor of JUI-S, PPP’s Yasmin Safdar, ANP’s Abdus Samad Khan, PJDP’s Inamullah Khan, APML’s Liaquat Ali, TTP’s Wali Dad, and independent candidates Usman Ali Khan, Syed Hamid Shah, Safdar Iqbal and Aminullah Khan.

However, a tough contest is likely between Imran Khan and Akram Durrani - who has served as chief minister of KP from 2002-2007. Besides that, Durrani has also been federal minister for housing in the PML-N’s last government after winning the same seat in 2013 polls by securing 78,294 votes, followed by independent candidate Maulana Nasim Ali Shah with 45,270 votes, PTI’s Matiullah Khan with 25,392 votes and Professor Ibrahim Khan of JI who got 12,832 votes.

In 2002, MMA nominee Maulana Nasib Ali Shah bagged 78,886 votes and secured the seat, while in 2008, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman won the constituency by getting 91,484 votes, followed by an independent candidate Malik Nasir Khan with 56,546 votes. This time again, MMA, a platform of five-religious parties, is fully activated and campaigning for its candidate, Durrani, who has an edge over Imran of being native as well as he knows local politics better.

Moreover, Durrani, a close aide to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has succeeded in convincing the PML-N contender Akhtar Ali Khan and PkMAP nominee Malik Shaukatullah Khan to withdraw in his favour. This support may benefit Durrani to some extent, as both the parties - PML-N and PkMAP have handsome vote banks in NA-35.

Comparatively, PTI and JUI-F have never been friendly and that is why its leadership does not waste an opportunity of making allegations against each other. In case, Imran Khan wins NA-35 seat, it will certainly give a boost to PTI to go into southern districts of KP, where it comparatively lags behind.

A year ago, Imran had challenged Durrani of defeating him at his hometown. Keeping his word, he is now contesting for NA-35. The PTI local leadership has launched an aggressive drive for Imran who is also expected to address another public gathering at NA-35 on July 16. He had already addressed a public meeting in Bannu on July 1.

The nominees of other candidates including JUI-S Maulana Mufti Islam Noor, PPP’s Yasmin Safdar, ANP’s Abdus Samad Khan, PJDP’s Inamullah Khan, APML’s Liaqat Ali, TTP’s Wali Dad, independent candidates, Usman Ali Khan, Syed Hamid Shah, Safdar Iqbal and Aminullah Khan have also geared up their campaigns to grab maximum votes.

Like many other constituencies, dwellers of NA-35 are also facing numerous challenges, particularly lacking potable water, dilapidated roads that connect rural areas with Bannu city, power outages and poor sanitation and sewerage system.

During their election campaigns, each party and even independent candidates are pledging to resolve all these issues. However, voters are also well aware of the fact that hardly any of them would be seen in the area after the elections.