Central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shaping the political landscape

The central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, encompassing Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera, and Charsadda, is often considered a political powerhouse, holding 33 out of 115 seats in the KP Assembly. This area, comprising the Peshawar valley, serves as a political barometer for the province, accounting for 28% of assembly seats.

With a population of 13 million out of the province’s total of 40.85 million, central KP stands as the most populous, industrialized, and prosperous region. Despite its political significance, the region has demonstrated a degree of unpredictability in terms of supporting a particular party over the years.

In 2002, it favored the religious Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) alliance, followed by the election of the first Awami National Party (ANP) chief minister, Ameer Haider Hoti, in 2008. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came into power in 2013, but in 2018, the region surprisingly re-elected PTI, deviating from its tendency not to re-elect the same party.

Central KP is home to influential political families like the Arbabs, Bilours, Walis, Sherpaos, Khattaks, Hotis, and Tarakais, who have dominated the political landscape for decades.

The region’s voting behavior has witnessed fluctuations, with ANP and PPP dominating from 1988 to 1997, followed by MMA’s success in 2002 due to anti-US invasion sentiments. In 2008, ANP gained prominence due to its stance against militancy, and in 2013, PTI emerged victorious, breaking the tradition of not re-electing the same party.

The 2018 elections marked a historic moment as PTI secured a second consecutive victory, winning 12 out of 13 NA seats in central KP. The political landscape in 2024 is poised for a competitive contest with PTI facing internal divisions, and established parties like ANP, QWP, JUI-F, JI, and PML-N seeking to regain lost ground.

Key constituencies, including Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Mardan, and Charsadda, present interesting battles. Notable contests include JUI-F’s Noor Alam Khan against PTI’s Sajid Nawaz in Peshawar’s NA-28, and the familial rivalry between PTI’s Usman Khan Tarakai and PPP’s Shahram Khan Tarakai in Swabi’s NA-20.

As the election unfolds on February 8, the central KP region stands as a critical battleground, where multiple parties contend for electoral success amidst a dynamic political landscape. Dr. Shakeel, an expert on the province’s electoral politics, emphasizes the evolving nature of voting patterns influenced by economic shifts and a changing political order. ( Monitoring Desk)