PESHAWAR, May 8: It is usual during election season that candidates seek voters’ approval by promising them a rosy future, but voters in North Waziristan Agency have taken the contestants of upcoming general election by surprise by seeking pre-poll approval for acceptance of their demands.
A civil society group called Waziristan Action Committee (WAC) has presented a charter of demands to the contestants in Miramshah. Over 1,200 members and organisers of the committee will back the candidate on May 11 who accepts its demands.
The society’s demands are genuine and reflect local people’s sensitivity about their basic problems. For instance, one of the demands is that the coming parliamentarian from North Waziristan instead of constructing new schools should end occupation of tribal elders on government schools and ensure regular attendance of the teachers.
“Here dozens of schools have been occupied by elders and turned into hujras (family guesthouses). Similarly, there are hundreds of teachers who don’t teach despite getting handsome salaries,” said Khalil Wazir, the WAC chairman.
“We think that construction of more schools and dispensaries in North Waziristan is mere wastage of cash resources. Therefore, the new MNA should end occupation of influential people from government buildings and make the occupied schools and health facilities functional,” he said.
Mr Khalil said that roughly the government was paying Rs140 million to teachers and health practitioners every month, who did not perform their duties. According to the WAC, the government should first ensure attendance of teachers and medical practitioners and then recruit fresh staff, if required. He said that the government teachers had gone to Gulf countries and sublet their jobs to others.
A total of 34 candidates are contesting for NA-40, North Waziristan, where the number of voters is 160,666 including 11,704 women, which is the lowest in all tribal agencies. Political parties, including Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Jamaat-i-Islami, have also fielded their candidates, while Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) is supporting an independent candidate Pir Mohammad Aqal Shah.
Like other areas of Federally Administered Tribal Areas, candidates in NA-40 are also using different tactics to win hearts and minds of voters. They are giving donations in cash and kind to mosques, seminaries and even government-run institutions.
A former parliamentarian is distributing electricity transformers, cables and other equipment. One candidate donated an ambulance to a government-run basic health unit in Spinwam while another candidate donated Rs500,000 to a mosque in Wacha Darra area.
The WAC’s list of demands also contains provision of two ambulances for the agency headquarters hospital in Miramshah and another in Mirali and establishment of two blood banks. Blood bank in agency headquarters hospital is not sufficient to fulfill the current requirements. The committee has enlisted volunteers who donate blood to wounded persons and patients in North Waziristan.
Another demand is that the newly-elected parliamentarian would spend 25 per cent of the total annual development funds with the consultation of local communities and announcement concerning development schemes would be made on FM radio from its station in Miramshah.