LANDI KOTAL, March 25: The candidates for a National Assembly seat in Bara have demanded of the authorities to postpone the upcoming general elections in NA-46 constituency owing to threats from a militant group and inability of political administration to devise a foolproof security plan for electioneering.  

Although election campaign has not been launched in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency, yet Lashkar-i-Islam, a militant group, has threatened to target all those people, who try to take part in the elections.

“The government is not sincere in holding peace talks with our group. As long as there is no clear cut response from the government side, we will not allow anyone to take part in the elections,” said a message sent by Faqir Mohammad, a local commander of Lashkar-i-Islam, to the candidates in Bara. He also advised common people of Bara to stay away from election rallies.

Awami National Party candidate Imran Afridi told Dawn that it was not possible to hold elections in Bara as most of its parts were still inaccessible.

Besides, he said, fresh displacement of people from Tirah valley made it difficult for the candidates to run a smooth and peaceful election campaign.

“As most of the newly displaced families from Tirah are terrorised, how it will be possible for a candidate to ask them to come to polling station and vote for him,” Mr Afridi said.

He said that his conscience didn’t permit him to be so self-centered. “Heavens will not fall if elections are postponed in Bara for a few months till the situation improves and displace people are rehabilitated with honour,” he said.

Mr Afridi said that he would talk to the other two candidates and local administration to seriously consider postponement of elections in Bara.

Shah Faisal, the candidate of Jamaat-i-Islami, said that in the absence of a workable polling scheme, it was almost impossible for the candidates to contest elections from Bara.

He said that his party had also reservations over the present voter list as thousands of Bara residents were not registered as voters. “Our party has not yet made up its mind to either boycott the elections or leave the field open to our opponents,” he said.

Mr Faisal said that though they were eager to contest elections, yet the prevailing situation was not conducive to hold such an important national exercise peacefully. Criticising Khyber Agency political administration for its failure to convene a meeting of all the political parties and independent candidates, he urged the Election Commission of Pakistan and caretaker government to ensure peaceful holding of elections in Bara.

“The inability and inactivity of the political administration have confused most of the candidates,” Mr Faisal said.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf president in Khyber Agency Iqbal Afridi said that both the candidates and voters felt insecure owing to threats from militant groups but local administration was yet to devise a security plan for elections. He said that the administration too felt insecure after the suicide attack on Khyber House last month.

The Khyber Agency political administration on Sunday convened a meeting of all the potential candidates at Khyber House to devise a security plan but cancelled the meeting at the last moment citing security concerns.

Ridiculing the cancellation of the meeting, Iqbal Afridi said that officials were scared of meeting people and barricaded themselves inside the fort-like Khyber House in Peshawar.

PML-N candidate Sohail Afridi said that administration failed to give them an assurance about security as officials declined to meet candidates. He said that with the election process already begun in rest of the country, the Khyber Agency political administration was yet to notify to all the candidates the polling arrangements and venues of the polling stations.

He said that apart from some 14,000 families of Bara currently residing at Jalozai camp, another 60,000 families were living in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh, but it was not yet clear how and where would those people cast their votes.

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