Ex-rickshaw driver hopes to raise Musharraf’s flag in K-P Assembly


PESHAWAR: Despite declarations from some politicians that elections in Pakistan are impossible without having pots of money, one provincial assembly candidate on the outskirts of Peshawar has set out to prove them wrong.

A local government official, the 47-year-old Wakeel Khan, is seeking to make a mark in the upcoming general elections for his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), by competing against a host of rich candidates in the provincial assembly constituency of PK-79 Peshawar XIV.

“I am a poor man,” Wakeel says while sitting in his small store in Musazai village where he sells soft drinks and pulses.

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“I have borrowed Rs100,000 from friends and together with some money of my own. I had 100 small panaflex posters (2×3 feet) made,” he says, adding that he also had some banners, posters and stickers made as well. “I am really a poor man but it was my party’s decision that I contest the elections [from this constituency] and I obliged,” Wakeel says.

This is not Wakeel’s first experience of an election. After having joined the party in 2014, having been a fan of the party’s founder — former dictator General (retired) Pervez Musharraf — for years, he had contested the local government elections in the area in 2015 and was elected as a general councillor.

Dictator’s policies

Asked how a small general store owner became a candidate for a party whose head was unceremoniously dumped out of the elections by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Wakeel explained that he had long been a fan of Musharraf.

“General Musharraf is a good man and his economic policies were really good for the poor people of this country,” Wakeel remarked while speaking with The Express Tribune.

“I really support him for his better policies.” Asked to explain what those policies were, he pointed to the mass employment schemes that Musharraf introduced.

“I was a rickshaw driver and used to drive a rented rickshaw,” Wakeel disclosed.

“But in 2007, I took the advantage of a self-employment scheme launched by the Musharraf government (Rozgaar scheme) and bought my own rickshaw on easy instalments. The procedure was simple and straightforward – Rs16,000 in advance and Rs3,000 per month instalment and two personal guarantors were required,” he stated. Driving his own three-wheeler, he says he managed to enhance his earnings.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

“This will be a small thing for you and many others but for poor people like us, the provision of the rickshaws on easy instalments was nothing short of a gift from God,” he argued. After the former dictator launched his party, the small trader from Musazai village finally managed to join it in 2014.

Modifying strategy

Elections are considered really for the wealthy and Wakeel is aware of this. Of the 13 candidates he faces in the constituency, most are well-off. One of them is an independent candidate Ghulam Haider Khan of Bahadar Kalay who claims to be a direct descendant of Rehman Baba and is a medium-scale landlord.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has fielded its former provincial assembly lawmaker and a rich man Fazale Ihali from the constituency.

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The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) candidate Malik Noshad from Achar Kalay is also considered to be a well-off man. Omar Khitab of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Abdul Jabbar of the Awami National Party (ANP) are all relatively rich compared to the hand-to-mouth Wakeel Khan.

However, Wakeel has devised a strategy to counter the big-money advantage of his peers — after all, this is how he managed to win a seat of a general councillor from the area in the first place.

“In corner meetings, you have to pay for the chairs and refreshments. The same is the case with large rallies. But I do not have that kind of money so I have hardly held any corner meetings or rallies,” Wakeel explains.

Instead, he has hinged his strategy on something that endured him in his earlier years: going door-to-door and asking people to vote for him.

“Let’s not let the lack of money bring us down,” Wakeel stated, adding, “I am confident of winning since a good portion of my village supports me.”

Asked about his election agenda, Wakeel explained that it was simple and rooted in the needs of the people like him: work for the welfare of the poor by bringing basic necessities of life to them.  “Look at my street. After a small shower, you cannot visit this place. Our people are longing for these basics of life for so long but in vain,” he complained.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2018.

The statement comes a day after Musharraf resigned as APML chief

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    Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/1753082/1-ex-rickshaw-driver-hopes-raise-musharrafs-flag-k-p-assembly/