By Ashrafuddin Pirzada
KHYBER DISTRICT (KP): The erstwhile Fata inhabitants who struggled for peace and political reforms in the past decades have marked the historical day by casting their vote for the first time in the provincial elections conducted on Saturday, July 20, 2019.
Though, the turnout was observed a little bit slow at the beginning when polling started at 9 am, while in the latter hour, residents in newly merged districts poured into their nearby polling stations and cast votes. The polling for 16 provincial seats was continued until 5 pm without any break.
Seven tribal agencies and six Frontier regions have been formally merged into mainstream politics and became districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the last quarter of 2018. The decision of the Fata merger was taken on the last day of the national assembly when all the outgoing parliamentarians unanimously voted in the favour of Fata merger.
Reporters in the respective tribal districts said women were also seen coming to polling stations, however, the Waziristan district was reported with fewer women voters’ turnout in the morning time.
Brigadier(R) Mehmood Shah said it would be a test case for those elected as KP assembly members to work on communication means and education. He said tribals faced dire episodes in the past and now hope their wounds could be healed.
District Commissioner Khyber District Mehmood Aslam Wazir said to the media that it was a great day in the history of tribal people. He congratulated the government, Pakistan army and citizens who rendered sacrifices and brought peace. He said the Tribals are marking their historical day today(Saturday). The official visited various polling stations in the war-torn Bara tehsil of Khyber district and inspected facilities placed for voters visiting polling stations. “I salute the Pakistan Army and civilians for bringing back the long-lasting peace at the cost of life sacrifices. He met with people who were using their political rights without any fear”. Said, DC Aslam.
Political experts and commentators said that voters taking part in the newly introduced political process in the tribal districts with the hope that their life could be changed when their 16 elected parliamentarians join the one-year-old provincial assembly.
The News resident editor in Peshawar, Rahimullah Yusufzai said elections in the erstwhile Fata had less importance for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the less important of the 16 forthcoming members of the KP province was the already clear majority of PTI in the province.
All the political parties and almost all constituencies have issued tickets to their nominated candidates who run for the election. Total of 281 party and independent candidates contesting the election for the 16 slots created in the KP assembly last year.
The election commission of Pakistan had set up 1897 polling stations across the tribal districts, while more than four hundred polling stations had been declared sensitive and very sensitive. Pakistan army, paramilitary troops and police personnel had been deployed to smoothly conduct the election process.
Remarkably, women voters were seen only casting their votes but tribal women were encouraged and contested the historical elections in the tribal district.
The international community also welcomed the elections in the tribal districts and extended their good wishes for peaceful elections.
United Kingdom diplomate in Pakistan Thomas Drew through his social media message said that tribal districts are going to elect their parliamentarians in the KP assembly for the first time. He further says he wishes the elections may be held in a peaceful environment.
According to the sources and officials have confirmed that no untoward incident happened during the election day despite a minor scuffle in Landikotal tehsil of Khyber tribal district between rival supporters and gunshots exchanged incident in Mohmand tribal district leaving two persons injured. However, the security forces controlled the situation.
Renowned news anchor and writer of several books Sohail Waraich said most of the party candidates contesting elections in the erstwhile Fata are from rich families who got their political party tickets on their strong wealth background. He said business tycoons were also contesting elections which would affect the free and fair aspect of the election. However, he said it would take time to change the trend.
Jirga program host Saleem Safi was not agreed with Sohail Waraich and said that Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami National Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam issued tickets to their candidates coming with their respective parties for a long. He said ANP effectively ran the election campaigns as compared to the other political parties.
Voters, who were mostly youngsters, were enthusiastic about their candidates sang songs and beat drums outsides of the various polling stations in the tribal districts.
It is learnt at the local level in the tribal districts that gone are the days when they were being influenced before and used to cast their vote for the appeasement of their elders, religious scholars and influential but this time they will vote for those who can create jobs for them, bring business activities and peace for them.