Firstever polls in merged tribal districts today 2.8m including 1.13m women to cast vote

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Tariq Saeed

Peshawar
Stage is set for holding first ever provincial assembly elections in the merged tribal districts formerly known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in an amicable manner on today (Saturday) amid tight security arrangements as the electioneering came to an end on Friday midnight.
As many as 2.8 million voters including 1.13 million female voters will exercise their right of franchise for the 16 seats of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly where there is going to be a tight contest among 285 candidates belonging to various political parties.
In addition five reserved seats four for women and one for non-Muslims will be filled through proportionate representation of seat won by the political parties. However, two female candidates are also in the run on the general seats. They are Naheed Afridi from the Awami National Party (ANP) contesting on the conservative Khyber district’s constituency of PK 106 and Malasa Bibi fielded by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) for PK 109 in the Kurram district.

While necessary staff has been deputed in all the polling stations, more than 34000 security officials including Pak Army have been deployed on 1897 polling stations of which 376 were setup for women, to ensure free fair and transparent elections in a peaceful and congenial atmosphere.
On 16 general seats Bajaur and Khyber districts have been given three seats each while North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Kurram tribal districts’ have two constituencies each. Likewise six former Frontier Regions (FRs) Peshawar Bannu, Kohat, D I Khan, Tank and Lakki Marwat jointly have a single seat for the KP assembly. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Apex Committee Friday reviewed the security arrangements for bye-election in tribal districts. The committee meeting was held at the governor’s house with Governor Shah Farman in the chair. The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, corps commander Peshawar Lt Gen Shaheen Mazhar Mehmood, IG police Dr. Mohammad Naeem, chief secretary Saleem Khan, home secretary and other civil and military officials.
The meeting was given detailed briefing about security arrangements for the bye-election in tribal districts.
The meeting was informed that 34490 security personnel including army, police, levies, Khasadaar force and FC would be deployed for the security of the polling stations in tribal districts. In addition, CCTV Cameras have been installed in every polling station, Contingency plan of Health Department is in place, Aviation Surveillance would be made available on Election Day, Quick response force and BDS unit will also remain active. The committee also decided that Deputy Commissioners and District Police Officers would ensure that no aerial firing would be made and victory processions are held peacefully.
A special help desk has been established in the Provincial Election Commission Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to redress complaints of voters about gender related issues on polling day. The desk can be contacted on telephone numbers: 091-9222534 and 091-9211041. An emergency control room has also been established in the Chief Minister Secretariat to cope with any emergency situation during election in the merged districts.
While the control room will remain operational round the clock from the day of poling till Sunday , the Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan has directed the officials of control room to keep close liaison with all the concerned departments in this regard. The chief minister said that bye-election in tribal districts was a challenge for the provincial government. He said inclusion of the merged tribal districts in the national stream was a great achievement of the PTI government as it will go long way in totally mitigating the sufferings of the tribal folk.