LANDI KOTAL: The continuous suspension of mobile internet service in most parts of the erstwhile Fata have now taken its toll on the electoral campaign of majority of the candidates contesting for National Assembly seats from the region.

With social media becoming an effective and handy tool to reach out to maximum number of electorates in any constituency in the rest of the country, candidates in most of the tribal districts are at the receiving end owing to prolonged suspension of the much sought after facility.

Mobile internet service in most parts of tribal districts was suspended in early June 2016 after border forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan clashed at Torkham over the construction of a gate by the Pakistani authorities.

The service remained suspended since then despite repeated calls for its restoration by people from different walks of life in the area. However, all these calls have so far fallen on deaf ears as the authorities have failed to give any tangible reason for suspension of the service despite considerable improvement in bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Candidate says move unjust after merger of Fata with KP

PPP candidate for NA-43 and NA-44 Hazrat Wali said that ban on mobile internet service was unjustified and unlawful after merger of the region with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He alleged that certain quarters were intentionally keeping the people of tribal district deprived of their basic constitutional rights that also included an uninterrupted mobile internet service.

“Political parties and their leaders run their election campaign through social media but candidates in tribal districts are deprived of this facility,” he said. He added that most of the candidates were finding it difficult to reach out to their supporters and voters without social media.

Maroof Khan, an independent candidate from Bara, also said that he and his campaign team were handicapped with the suspension of mobile internet service and consequent ban on use of social media.

“It is very important that we not only convey our massage and manifesto to our voters but also to educate them about the importance of exercising their right to vote in a proper democratic way through effective use of social media,” he told this scribe.

Mr Khan said that use of social media was necessary to reach to the female voters as arranging meeting of women was a taboo in the tribal society.

He said that majority of the voters didn’t know about the personality of an independent candidate and the manifesto of a political party as they had no access to mobile internet.

“This has seriously affected our speedy approach to the electorate. The candidates are now compelled to travel to far-off localities for their canvassing,” he said. Jamaat-i-Islami candidate for NA-43 Zar Noor Afridi has made the restoration of 3G and 4G mobile internet service in Khyber tribal district as one of his major campaign slogan to attract maximum number of electorates.

“If you want restoration of 3G and 4G service in Khyber, vote for Zar Norr Afridi” are the slogans written on walls, buildings, roadsides and banners displayed at prominent locations in Landi Kotal and Jamrud.

ANP local leader Shah Hussain Shinwari said that nobody could deny the importance of a vibrant social media in running of an election campaign but unfortunately the facility was suspended in tribal districts for over two years.

Turab Ali, a political activist, believed that tribal voters were affected by ban on use of social media as they were unaware of the contesting candidates’ plans about development of the region and the promises they made during their election campaign.

Sudher Ahmad, a social worker, said that election campaign would have been more effective and lively with the use of social media.

Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2018

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