PESHAWAR: While voting for 16 general seats in the first-ever provincial elections in the seven tribal districts and six towns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday remained peaceful amid elaborate security arrangements, the turnout of voters, especially women voters, in some districts remained low.
Women in some parts of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) according to their tribal traditions were barred from casting their vote though polling that had started at 8am continued till 5pm without a break.
Army troops along with the Levies and Khasadars were deployed outside all 1,897 polling stations set up by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Besides, security personnel were deployed inside those polling stations that had been declared highly sensitive.
With the results still being compiled at polling stations, independent candidates have been showing impressive performance as six of them were in the lead according to unofficial results.
Among those fielded by different parties, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) candidates were leading on four seats, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) on two seats each and the Awami National Party (ANP) on one seat.
Earlier, ECP director Chaudhry Nadeem Qasim told the media outside the ECP headquarters in Islamabad that one polling agent of each candidate had been asked to be present at their polling stations at the time of vote count and sign Form 45. He said the ECP had given proper training to the presiding officers regarding Form 45. “Results will be compiled on completing the counting process and reaching of the Form 45 to the returning officers,” he said, adding that the ROs had been asked not to announce the result of their respective constituency till receiving of 100 percent results.
He said vote count had been started soon after the completion of polling process. Legally, he said, the results were disseminated through an electronic method but there were network and night travel issues in some tribal districts.
Not a single incident of severe nature happened in any tribal district during the polling process though four complaints of minor nature were received during the day, the ECP director added.
In all, 285 candidates, including two women, contested the 16 general seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to represent three constituencies each of Bajaur (PK-100 to 102) and Khyber (PK-105 to 107) districts; two each of Mohmand (PK-103 and 104), Kurram (PK-108 and 109), North Waziristan (PK-111 and 112) and South Waziristan (PK-113 and 114); and one each of Orakzai (PK-110) district and ex-Frontier regions (PK-115).
Besides the nominees of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples Party- Parliamentarians (PPP-P), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), several independent candidates contested the polls.
In Sheen Qamar area of Bara, Khyber district, local elders of the Zaodin Zakhakhel tribe decided to keep women away from the polling stations reportedly due to the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras there. Saadullah Khan, an area resident, told Dawn that the number of registered female voters in Sheen Qamar was around 2,000 but none of them was allowed to cast her vote despite some resistance from locals.
The only woman contestant for Khyber-I (PK-106) seat was Naheed Afridi fielded by the ANP.
The overall turnout at around 345 polling stations, both male and female, was lower than expected as most of the registered women voters stayed away from casting their votes in Bara, Jamrud and Landi Kotal.
Heela Shinwari, who exercised her right to vote for the first time, said that lack of knowledge about casting of votes was one of the main reasons for low turnout of female voters.
Female voting at the polling station, which was set up at the government higher secondary school, was suspended for a brief time when rival candidates objected to presence of some male voters in the polling area.
Shareef Khan, a resident of Tirah, told Dawn that the polling remained peaceful but the turnout was not up to their expectations.
In Mohmand district, both male and female voters came out from their homes and cast vote to elect their representative for the three seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
For the first time, women were seen casting their votes in the Safi tehsil of the tribal district. Tight security arrangements were made by the district administration with support of local police and Levies and Khassadar forces. Around 1,700 personnel were deployed besides monitoring of election activities through CCTV cameras at all the 194 polling stations to ensure free and fair election.
As in Kurram district, too, the turnout of voters was low, announcements from local mosques urged voters to use their right to vote and visit the polling stations. Both men and women cast their vote.
The only woman contestant for Kurram-II (PK-109) seat was Ms Malasa fielded by the JI.
North, South Waziristan
In North Waziristan, participation of voters was low apparently due to curfew and enforcement of Section 144 of the criminal procedure code during the pre-election days.
No incident of violence was reported from South Waziristan as polling remained peaceful in the tribal district.
A vehicle taking voters to a polling station in Orakzai district fell into a ravine, leaving two people dead and eight others injured.
Election material was dispatched to all the polling stations in the constituency in time and no complaint about any shortcomings had been received from any area. However, according to reports, turnout of female voters remained low.
Voting for the three provincial assembly seats in Bajaur tribal district was held peacefully.
The Election Commission of Pakistan had established 338 polling stations for the three constituencies in which 67 had been declared sensitive and 27 most sensitive. Subsequently, strict security arrangements were witnessed at all polling stations across the district to thwart any unpleasant incident during the polling. None of the polling stations that Dawn visited was found crowded during the day.
Polling at 10 polling stations in Betanni tribal subdivision (PK-115) ended peacefully amid tight security on Saturday evening.
A rush of voters was seen at the polling stations in the morning and just before closing time, as people used their right of franchise for the first time for a seat of the provincial assembly. Women voters also came out of their houses and went to polling stations to cast their votes.
Terming the first-ever election in the tribal district a historic event, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan congratulated the nation. Secretary for home and tribal affairs Ikramullah Khan told Dawn that elections were held in a peaceful atmosphere, no election-related violence was reported from any of the 16 constituencies.
An independent candidate Shafiq Afridi unofficially won on Khyber-I (PK-105) seat by securing 18,024 votes. Another independent candidate Bilawal Afridi was leading on Khyber-II (PK-106) seat. Former lawmaker Hameedullah Afridi was in the lead on Khyber-III (PK-107).
PTI candidates were leading on Bajaur-I (PK-100), Kurram-II, (PK-109) North Waziristan-I (PK-111) and South Waziristan-II (PK-114).
JI candidates Sahibzada Haroon Rasheed and Sirajuddin Khan were leading on Bajaur-II (PK-101) and Bajaur-III (PK-102) seats. ANP and PTI candidates had a tough contest on Mohmand-I (PK-103) seat, with ANP’s Nisar Mohmand having a slight lead over the other. JUI-F candidates were in the lead on Mohmand-II (PK-104) and South Waziristan-I (PK-113) seats. An independent candidate Jameel Khan was in the lead on Kurram-I (PK-108) against the JUI-F candidate.