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KP govt writes to ECP to delay merged districts’ polls for 20 days

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June 10, 2019

PESHAWAR: Due to recent acts of terrorism in North Waziristan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has written to the Election Commission of Pakistan to delay the July 2 election for 16 general seats of the provincial assembly in the merged districts for 20 days.

Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s provincial government through the Home and Tribal Affairs Department sent a letter to the ECP on June 3, but due to the Eidul Fitr holidays it has yet to receive response to its request.

“The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is not in favour of conducting election in the tribal districts due to security concerns in North Waziristan in the wake of the recent incidents in which 10 security personnel including army officers were martyred,” the information minister said. He said the KP government is hopeful that the Election Commission would accept its request to delay the election and hold it on July 22. “We are hoping to get a response from the Election Commission today or tomorrow,” he added.

The minister said that candidates and leaders of political parties are not in a position to run their election campaign in view of the poor law and order situation in erstwhile Fata. “How can the candidates run their election campaign where the military is conducting search operations?” he questioned.

The provincial information minister said that the Khassadar and Levies forces that were vested with police powers after the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa aren’t fully trained to cope with the situation. “We want the election to be held in peaceful conditions and this is the reason the provincial government made the request for postponement of election for 20 days,” he pointed out.

“The provincial election for 16 seats in the newly merged districts (ex-Fata) are due to be held on July 2, 2019. Election is a breathing life for democratic nations and the people of newly merged districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are availing this opportunity for the first time in the constitutional history of Pakistan. The current unwarranted situation and threats of serious nature from across the border and some developments within the newly merged districts may sabotage the whole process of holding of forthcoming election,” the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government stated in the letter sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

In the letter, the provincial government mentioned six reasons for postponement of the election. These included the threat of terrorist activities from across the border/neighbouring Afghanistan, the threat to political leadership of newly merged districts, post-merger issues, the recent incident in North Waziristan, change of command of Levies and Khassadars from deputy commissioners to district police officers, and the fact that the Levies and Khassadars have not yet been trained to perform security duties in the absence of territorial and tribal responsibility.

When contacted, spokesperson for provincial Election Commission Muhammad Sohail stated that if the provincial government has sent a letter for postponement of the election, the Election Commission of Pakistan would decide it as per the law after thorough discussion.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already issued the final list of 297 candidates for the 16 general seats in erstwhile Fata. Besides, there are four reserved seats for women and one for the minorities for which election would be held subsequently.

Under the Constitution (Twenty Fifth Amendment) Act, 2018, the provincial assembly election in the merged districts has to be held within a year of the holding of the 2018 general election. Some of the political parties, including the Awami National Party (ANP), have lodged a protest over the proposal by the KP government.

However, KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai said the decision to postpone the election for 20 days has been made for the security of the people, particularly the candidates and the general public.

Also, he said it was after the security agencies reported potential threats from the terrorists from the across the border in Afghanistan during the election campaign that the KP government decided to seek the help of the ECP in postponing the election for 20 days.

“We are not escaping from the elections as alleged by some of the political parties. To us, the security of all the general public and people of all the political parties is important than the elections,” he said.

The government is particularly concerned about the deteriorating security situation in North Waziristan tribal district where 10 Pakistani security officials, three of the officers, had been killed and over a dozen injured in improvised explosive attacks in one week.

All the attacks on Pakistani security forces took place in Khar Kamar or its surrounding areas close to Afghanistan. The government had conducted a massive military operation in almost every part of North Waziristan in 2014 but exempted Dattakhel area due to reason best known to them.

After the merger of the seven tribal regions called as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and six Frontier Regions (FRs) into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018, this is the first time the government is to conduct the election for the provincial assembly.

Fata had 12 seats in the National Assembly and eight seats in the Senate. After the merger in KP, the number of National Assembly seats was reduced to six while there would have been no seat of Senate for the former Fata in the next election as it is now part of the province.

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