PESHAWAR -  All arrangements have been finalised for the by-election on NA-4, Peshawar, scheduled for Thursday (tomorrow).

The seat that fell vacant because of the death of PTI’s Gulzar Khan is as important for the party of Imran Khan as was NA-120, Lahore, for PML-N on which by-election was held only a few weeks ago.

A total of 14 candidates, five of them from major political parties and nine independents are in the race. Milli Muslim League and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, both debutants in politics that had for the first time shown their presence in NA-120 (Lahore) and surprised many by getting more votes than their expectations, are also in the race here.

The contest is being regarded as a test of PTI’s popularity in KP, the only province which brought this party to power as a result of the 2013 election.

In 2013 general election, the late Gulazar Khan secured 55,134 votes whereas PML-N’s Nasir Musazi bagged 20,412 votes and stood runner-up. Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sabir Awan bagged 16,493 votes, ANP’s Arbab Ayub Jan secured 15,795 votes, JUI-F's Arbab Kamal 12,519 votes and PPP’s nominee Misbahuddin got 12,017 votes.

This time again, PML-N has awarded ticket to Nasir Khan Musazai. However, this time he has the support of JUI-F, Qaumi Watan Party of Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and Rah-e-Haq Party.

Likewise, PTI has fielded Arbab Amir Ayub, who recently joined the party after quitting ANP. Arbab Amir was town nazim on the ANP’s ticket in 2005. The PTI candidate has also been supported by Maulana Samiul Haq’s JUI-S and Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik.

The PPP has awarded ticket to Asad Gulzar, son of the late MNA Gulzar Khan who is a new face in active politics.

ANP has fielded Khushdil Khan who was deputy speaker of KP Assembly in the ANP-PPP coalition government. Jamaat-e-Islami has fielded Wisal Farooq Khan. Though PTI and JI are coalition partners in the KP government, they are contesting against each other.

PTI did request JI to withdraw its candidate in favour of its nominee, but the latter refused to do so. However, PTI succeeded in getting the support of Maulana Samiul Haq and Dr Tahirul Qadri.

The newly formed Milli Muslim League (MML) has fielded Haji Liaqat Ali Khan as its candidate in NA-4. Like its rival parties, MML is actively campaigning in the constituency. Apart from that Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) candidate Dr Muhammad Shafique Amini is not much behind in running election drive.

Political pundits say the three parties’ alliance of PML-N, QWP and JUI-F, ANP and PPP were posing serious challenge to PTI. This has forced the KP chief minister to quickly inaugurate the long-awaited Rapid Bus project in Peshawar.

It is worth mentioning here that in 2013 general elections, PTI had swept Peshawar district by securing four NA and 10 PA seats out of 11.

ANP’s Asfadyar Wali visited the constituency twice while PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, JI’s Sirajul Haq, PTI’s Imran Khan and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressed big public gatherings in the constituency. However, no central leader of PML-N turned up there. Only Ameer Muqam, the party's KP president, addressed more than one dozen public meetings to seek votes for his party candidate.

The constituency consists of mainly rural and semi-urban areas and posters and banners are seen there all around. The roads, squares and intersections are decorated with posters, flexes, banners and campaign materials by candidates with catchy slogans to attract young voters.

NA-4 comprises Hazarkhwani, Urmar, Pandu, Baghwana, Mathani, Tarnab, Badabair and Mathani areas where people are mostly associated with agriculture, brick industry, government service and oversees employment.

Like others, this constituency too has a lot of problems like dilapidated roads, lack of educational and health institutions, scarcity of clean drinking water, solid waste management system and unemployment.

Total registered voters in the constituency are about 397,904 – 235,164 male and 162,740 female. Around 7,000 police personnel and three platoons of Pak-Army would be deployed in NA-4 to maintain law and order.

The Election Commission has established a total of 269 polling stations. For the first time in KP, the ECP is going to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in 39 polling stations of NA-4 on trial basis. The processing time of casting one vote through these machines would take 20 seconds. This new technology is being introduced in the by-election to examine the performance and functioning of the machines and to record voters’ problems in using this technology.

Historically, this seat has been won by the ANP for five times. The late Khan Abdul Wali Khan won this seat in 1970 when this constituency was called NA-3, followed by PPP’s Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao in 1977.

Likewise, it was won by an independent candidate, Hameedullah Khan, in 1985 in non-party election, PPP’s Sardar Ali Khan in 1988, ANP’s Arbab Zahir Khan in 1990, again ANP’s Arbab Zahir Khan in 1993, and 1997. In 2002, MMA’s nominee Sabir Hussian Awan won this seat. However, ANP regained NA-4 when its candidate Arbab Zahir won it again in 2008, while in 2013, PTI’s Gulzar Khan secured the seat.