ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to explain reasons for requesting postponement of the first-ever provincial assembly elections in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
A senior official of the ECP told Dawn that representatives of the KP government would attend a meeting on Wednesday and brief the commission on reasons for seeking a delay in the polls. He said the interior ministry would also be represented at the meeting.
The official said that it was a constitutional duty of all the executive authorities of the federation and the provinces to assist the commission in discharge of its functions.
The KP government had requested the ECP to postpone by 20 days the provincial assembly elections for security and other reasons.
While the elections for 21 seats of the merged tribal districts in the KP assembly are scheduled for July 2, the security situation in parts of Fata — particularly in North Waziristan — has deteriorated over the past few weeks.
Citing security and several other reasons, the KP home and tribal affairs department sent a letter to the ECP secretary on June 3 — the last working day before Eid holidays — seeking postponement of the polls for nearly three weeks. The letter stated that postponing the elections for 20 days was within the constitutional limit of holding the polls before July 25, 2019.
Following the passage of the Constitution (25th Amendment) Act, 2018, the ECP is bound to hold provincial assembly polls in erstwhile Fata within one year of the holding of general elections 2018, which were held on July 25.
KP Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai had recently stated that the law and order situation in the merged districts was serious and there were apprehensions that candidates might be attacked by terrorists. He said security forces had been conducting search operations in different areas of North Waziristan tribal district.
“Due to same reason the provincial government has sent a letter to the ECP for postponing the polls for 20 days. During this period, the government will make all-out efforts to improve the situation,” he said in a video message released to the media.
The ECP had announced the election schedule through a notification on May 6. Currently, the election process is under way to fill 16 general seats and five reserved seats — four for women and one for non-Muslim communities — of tribal districts in the KP Assembly.
The letter signed by a section officer of the home department cited multiple reasons for the request, including threats of terrorist activities from across the Afghan border with newly merged districts, threat to political leadership of newly merged districts, post-merger issues of ex-Fata with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, fresh developments in North Waziristan district, change of command of Levies and Khasadars from deputy commissioners to DPOs (district police officers), and training of Levies and Khasadars for security duties in the absence of territorial and tribal responsibility.
Uncertainty looms over the polls in tribal districts ever since the schedule had been announced. Initially, there was some issue over increasing the number of seats in erstwhile Fata.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2019