In a first, women contesting elections in Pakistan’s tribal areas - GulfToday

In a first, women contesting elections in Pakistan’s tribal areas

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Election staff carry ballot boxes for polls in tribal areas, in Peshawar on Friday. AP

Tariq Butt, Staff Reporter

Polling was held for the first time in Pakistan’s tribal areas, now merged in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), to elect 16 members of this provincial assembly on Saturday.

In the 16 constituencies up for grabs, almost all contestants were men. But two women are also in the race.

CCTV cameras were installed at several polling stations. Females also exercise their right of franchise in certain constituencies. Strict security measures were put in place. Army troops were deployed in a significant number. No violence was reported and polls closed at 5:00 pm without any disturbances, officials said.

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A tribesman casts his vote while others waiting their turn in Jamrud, Khyber district, on Saturday. AP

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) set up 1,897 polling stations across the region. Of them, 554 were declared highly sensitive and 461 sensitive.

A total of 2.80 million residents, including 1.67 million men and 1.13 million women, exercised their right to vote.

Of the 1,897 polling stations, 482 are for men and 376 for women, while 1,039 are combined. A total of 5,653 polling booths have been established. They include 3,437 for men and 2,216 for women.

The ECP deputed 1,897 presiding officers, 5,653 assistant presiding officers and 5,653 polling officers.

The seven remote districts along the border with Afghanistan were once a focal point in the global war on terror but were brought under the control of Pakistani authorities after the passage of legislation last year.

People in many districts lined up outside polling stations to cast their votes. The ECP finalised arrangements for elections and handed over the relevant materials to the polling staff in their respective areas.

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An election worker prepares ballot paper for a tribesman, waiting to cast his vote in a polling station in Jamrud. AP 

While claiming to have adopted foolproof security for the polls, the government said as many as 34,497 security personnel were deployed across the tribal areas. They included personnel of the Pakistan Army, police, Frontier Corps, Levies and Khasadar Force.

There were 285 candidates for 16 general seats, including nominees of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Qaumi Watan Party, and independents.

Two women candidates, including Naheed Afridi of the ANP and Malasa of the JI, were in the run for PK-106 Khyber-I and PK-109 Kurram-II respectively.

Of the 16 general seats, three are for Bajaur and Khyber tribal districts each and two for Mohmand, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal districts each, while the former Frontier Regions of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank jointly have one seat.

Five seats reserved for women and non-Muslims will be filled through proportional representation of seats won by a political party.

Eight candidates are in the run for four seats reserved for women, while there are three contestants for a seat reserved for non-Muslims.

While all polling stations were established in the respective constituencies, certain stations of PK-110 Orakzai and PK-112 North Waziristan-II were set up in the adjoining settled districts for internally displaced persons.

Twenty-three polling stations have been established in Kohat for Mamuzai tribe, 23 in Hangu for Alikhel and Mulakhel tribes of Orakzai Agency, and 13 in Bannu for IDPs of PK-112 North Waziristan.

The ECP notified the deployment of the personnel of armed forces and civil armed forces outside every polling station and both outside and inside the highly sensitive polling stations from July 18th to July 21 for helping it conduct elections in a free, fair and transparent manner.

It assigned magisterial powers to the presiding officers and designated officer in charge of armed forces and civil armed forces for entire duration of their deployment in respect of offences under Elections Act’s Section 169 (personation) and Section 171 (capturing of polling station or polling booth).