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July 20, 2019

Polls in former Fata


July 20, 2019

The people of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas will go to polls today to elect 16 lawmakers on the general seats of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly. In July 2018, voters in the seven tribal territories and six Frontier Regions had voted for the 12 seats of the National Assembly with the rest of the country. The election for provincial seats takes place following the merger of former Fata into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw under the 25th Amendment. Alongside the general seats, candidates will also be chosen for the four reserved seats for women and minorities. The election will mean yet another opportunity for the people of one of the most under developed and neglected parts of the country to understand how they can use their votes to better their own situation. In fact, if local government elections are also held in the former Fata areas in August this year as is being speculated, the people would have voted three times virtually within a single year.

The right of franchise is new to these areas. The residents of Fata gained the right to vote under the principal of Universal Adult Franchise only in 1997. Till then, hereditary tribal elders alone had the right to vote or contest elections for the National Assembly. This also led to a situation where representatives voted in from Fata could in many cases be lured over to a particular political camp to serve the motive of mainstream political parties and governments, as their power did not stem from the people. With the first vote along the same lines as all other Pakistanis there is considerable interest in the poll and the question of how people will vote.

According to analysts, the JUI-F and the PTI are both seen as strong contenders, although there are suggestions that disputed distribution has in some constituencies potentially divided up the PTI vote. In the National Assembly election last year, six of the winning candidates belonged to the PTI, three to the JUI-F, one to the PPP and two independents (affiliated with the PTM). It is predicted the same pattern may be followed this time round, with the PTM maintaining a relatively strong position in North and South Waziristan, the PPP in Bajaur and the ANP attempting to acquire at least a single seat, possibly from Mohmand. The Election Commission of Pakistan has already announced that if less than 10 percent of women participate in polling in any polling district, the election there will be declared null and void. Reports from the area also say that younger people, unsurprisingly, are most enthusiastic about the election and their merger into the country’s mainstream. What difference this can make to the lives of the people of the area will become clearer in the months following the polls.

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