Fault lines inside PTM

Islamabad: The passing of 26th constitutional amendment bill in National Assembly moved by independent MNA Mohsin Dawar had exposed certain cracks within Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), while others are terming the amendment as a conspiracy expressing suspicions over the timing.

The constitutional amendment which will increase representation in national and provincial assemblies for the newly merged tribal districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the first piece of legislation done by the current national assembly with over 2/3rd majority and presented by an independent member.

However, it seems very unusual that the successful passing of amendment led to intense internal debate within the PTM, particularly on social media, over the conduct of MNA Mohsin Dawar – a leader of PTM. Others too are suspicious over the successful sailing of the bill from national assembly. However, they are questioning timing of the bill and see some conspiracy against provincial elections for merged tribal districts.

It’s quite evident once the amendment sails through the Senate; election for provincial assembly seats scheduled for July 2 will be postponed for around six months- as mentioned in the bill.  This is necessary for fresh delimitation of constituencies as with amendment the number of constituencies increases from 16 to 24.

Interestingly, as the number of seats for provincial assembly is increased more and more activists of PTM are showing interests in contesting elections for tribal districts. Participation of PTM activists in elections – both as independent candidates or using PTM platform – is the real source of conflict within the movement.

Many PTM activists – especially those related to Pakhtun nationalist political parties including Awami National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party – resorted to social media unleashing barrage of criticism accusing Mr Dawar – the PTM senior leader and mover of the bill- for playing in hands of security establishment.

The establishment used Mohsin Dawar – an independent MNA from tribal districts- to table this important bill just to raise his stature and deny the nationalist political forces the due credit, they say.

As more PTM activists from tribal districts are flexing muscles to participate in the elections, the ANP and PkMAP are getting suspicious of role of security establishment intentions. Both fear the PTM-fame-independents candidates can attract their potential voters.

The emerging situation has also put the PTM leadership in a difficult position. Those activists who are related to either ANP or PkMAP are against participation of Movement’s members in elections for Pakhtunkhwa assembly both as independent candidates or using PTM platform, thus creating a chasm within the group.

PkMAP is openly opposing participation of PTM activists in electoral politics; while the ANP is using its activists within the group to discourage PTM members from contesting elections as independent candidates.

Both ANP and PkMAP see PTM as a potential threat to their vote banks in their traditional areas of influence. Both are also a facing the dilemma of neither having popular youth leadership nor any attraction for the youth – especially in the tribal districts. On the contrary, the PTM has provided that platform with a big attraction for the youth.  Hence both are pressuring the PTM leadership to bar its active members from contesting elections as independent candidates.

Manzoor Pashtun – believed to be shy of taking unpopular decisions – has already succumbed to the pressure from PkMAP and ANP activists within the PTM. And has distanced the group from electoral politics and announced the PTM will not participate in electoral politics nor support any independent candidate or political party.

But Manzoor seems to be lone ranger here. Majority of PTM core leadership including Mohsin Dawar, Ali Wazir (both current MNAs), Abdullah Nangyal, Jamal Mayar, Arif Wazir, Hayat Preghal, Ismail Mehsud and others are all in favor of contesting in elections. Majority of the core leaders has even submitted forms for contesting July 2 elections.

The unfolding situation has also put both the Pakhtun nationalist parties in another difficult situation. There reports that local leaders of both the parties in merged tribal districts – who are also part of PTM – have been refusing to contest elections on the party tickets. They knew both the nationalists’ political parties are not popular in merged districts so they prefer contesting elections as independent candidates to exploit the fame and popularity they earned being part of PTM.

But this is a fact too. No doubt ANP has some presence and support in some tribal districts but not enough to win a seat, while the PkMAP has not presence at all anywhere in these districts.

The amendments bill has also attracted some more criticism from others quarters too. Some are suspecting timing of amendment– when schedule announced for election for provincial assembly – believed it to be a conspiracy hatched by incumbent ruling party – PTI – and members of National assembly and Senate from former tribal areas.

These critics believed failing to implement reforms or initiating development schemes, the PTI has become unpopular in former tribal regions. So it is under confident and fearing failures is avoiding going to elections soon.

The incumbent elected members of National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan are also blamed to be part of conspiracy. Critics say they are interested in delaying provincial elections so that they rule the roost for a long time without sharing the current power and influence with new people to be elected as member of Pakhtunkhwa assembly.

Likewise, others say that delaying the first ever provincial assembly elections, the establishment wanted to control spending of proposed 100 billion rupees annual grants to be allocated for social-economic development of tribal districts. They believed in the absence of MPAs from tribal districts in Pakhtunkhwa, these regions would be ignored in decision making and the proposed 100 billion rupees grants might be utilized for other purposes somewhere else in the province.

However, none of these allegations hold grounds. This is naive to believe PTI has become unpopular in tribal districts in past one year. In the past JUI (f) used to be very popular in tribal districts but PTI has successfully pulled the rug from under feet of religious parties, while the nationalists’ forces have already a minimum and nominal vote bank.

Most importantly, the fear that the proposed 100 billion funds will be used somewhere else if the regions do not have representation in provincial assembly, is also wrong and unfounded.

Few people knew a decision has been taken by prime minister and his cabinet that this amount can’t be used anywhere else except for social and infrastructure development of tribal districts.

According to the cabinet decision this 100 billion annual fund will not be even deposited in the regular accounts of Pakhtunkhwa province; these will be non-lapsable and kept in separate account specifically opened for the purpose.

So in worst of scenario if elections for the provincial assembly seats are not held in the merged tribal districts even then this 100 billion proposed amount be spent there and nowhere else as per under cabinet decision.

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