Pakistan, first democratic elections for the Pashtun tribal areas

Voter turnout was around 27%, lower than the national round in July 2018. The important news is that the vote took place peacefully. Last year the seven tribal districts and the six border regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were annexed to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Tribal areas are fertile ground for fundamentalism.



Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - With an election participation of 27.6%, the first provincial elections were held in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan two days ago and the results were released yesterday.

The vote is a historic moment for these territories, mostly inhabited by the Pashtun ethnic group and enmeshed for about 20 years in a latent conflict due to the presence of pockets of Islamic fundamentalists. The most relevant aspect, despite the low turnout, is that the elections took place peacefully almost everywhere.

The election was scheduled for last year, when the seven tribal districts and six border regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were annexed to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through the approval of the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

The attempt to bring these areas under the aegis of a democratic government dates back to 1947 (the year of independence), when the territory was guaranteed semi-autonomy. The almost non-existent control by the security forces has made these areas fertile ground for the proliferation of terrorism and privileged corridors for the passage of militants on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In total, about three million people had the right to vote. The elections began on July 20 at 8 am and some attribute the low turnout to the soaring temperatures. Participation was about 6.3 percentage points lower than last years general elections for the National Assembly on July 25, which decreed the victory of former cricket star Imran Khan.

According to the Free and Fair Election Network, voting at 1,896 seats took place in a "peaceful and free" manner and without "major disputes". The commissioners report only three incidents that occurred in Khyber, Mohmand and Kurram, which caused the temporary interruption of the voting process. In addition, some observers have reported irregularities in voting at some polling stations, with parties campaigning outside or providing means of transport  to voters to go to the polls.

All the major political parties participated in the election campaign, with 16 seats to the provincial assembly up for grabs. The first results show that the ruling party Pakistan's Tehreek-e Insaf (Pakistan's Justice Movement) of Prime Minister Khan won four seats; the Islamic movement Jamiat Ulam-e Islam has won two, while one seat each went to a second Islamic movement, the Jammat-e Islami (Ji), and to the secular ethnic-nationalist party of the tribal Pasthun Awami National Party.