KP, we have a situation

The main reason for the delay in elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a challenging law and order situation

KP, we have a situation


he situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is different from the Punjab as far as convening of elections is concerned. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has led two provincial governments without a break. This is why some people believe that the PTI relies on KP for some sort of political agitation movement. Recently, the youth from all over Pakhtunkhwa gathered for demonstrations in Lahore’s Zaman Park. Whatever the reasons for the delay in holding elections in the Punjab, in Pakhtunkhwa, the main reason for the delay in elections is the law and order situation. In this regard, Governor Haji Ghulam Ali has said several times and on various platforms that it is difficult to hold elections given the current law and order situation in the province. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, has said that it is not possible to hold the provincial elections within the customary ninety days.

When the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) set a date for elections in the Punjab, the Pakhtunkhwa government also indicated a willingness to move in that direction. However, when the concerned institutions expressed their inability to commit resources for elections in the Punjab, the KP governor also wrote a letter to the ECP.

Governor Haji Ghulam Ali mentioned several terrorist attacks that have taken place in March alone. Referring to the attacks in South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Khyber and Dera Ismail Khan, he said that in such a situation it was difficult to hold elections before October 2023. Therefore, he said, the elections should be held on October 8, at the same time as in the Punjab.

The question is: can the peace and security situation be expected to improve during these months? In this regard, the provincial government and the related institutions believe that the current law and order situation is because of an unstable situation in Afghanistan. Currently, the security agencies are engaged in operations against militant elements in several parts of the province adjacent to the Afghanistan border.

Earlier, peace was established as a result of similar operations. However, due to the arrival of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the lenient policies of the PTI towards the Pakistani Taliban, militancy has returned to the region. With regular intelligence-based operations, law enforcement agencies believe that the situation will improve significantly in a few months.

The 2013 elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had proved particularly bloody. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had threatened the Awami National Party, the largest nationalist party in the province, and had asked the people to stay away from it. Senior party leader and former senior minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour was martyred in a suicide attack while running the election campaign. In another suicide attack on the occasion of the election rally, a senior leader of ANP Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour narrowly escaped but sixteen workers were martyred. The central leadership of the Awami National Party at one point stated that the TTP chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was the chief election commissioner of the 2013 elections.

It is said that the Taliban were inclined towards the PTI. The main reason for this was PTI’s support of the Taliban and Imran Khan’s rhetoric against drone strikes (some of which targeted the most wanted terrorists, including Hakimullah Mehsud).

Keeping the background in mind, several political parties in Pakhtunkhwa are demanding that the law and order issues should be addressed first. If it becomes difficult and unsafe for some parties to conduct election campaigns while the PTI manages to run its election campaign smoothly, what is the use of such an election, they argue. Another important issue for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the newly merged districts. Earlier, they had participated in provincial assembly elections but now for the first time, they will participate in general elections. In an environment where no census has been conducted and objections have been raised against delimitations, snap elections risk creating further complications.

Some parties are also demanding thorough accountability of the PTI before elections. Allegations of poor management of the Health and Education Departments are rife. There is a demand also to expedite the NAB cases against some PTI leaders.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist, researcher and trainer

KP, we have a situation