ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party has complained to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza about the imposition of Section 144 in the erstwhile tribal agencies, expressing fears that the decision would hamper the holding of free and fair elections.
In a letter written to the CEC on Monday, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said that “access to voters through public meetings by candidates and their party leaders is of paramount importance to present to the people political narratives that can change their lives”.
He called upon Justice Raza to direct the authorities concerned to “refrain from imposing Section 144 or banning entry” of outsiders in the tribal districts.
In his letter, Mr Babar praised the Election Commission for its order last week to release two independent candidates from South Waziristan tribal district so that they could contest the July 20 elections.
“Bold and just pronouncements like this are needed if the electoral exercise is not to look like a farce,” Mr Babar wrote in his letter, the text of which was released to the media.
“May I draw your kind attention towards other acts of the executive that amount to pre-poll rigging. These acts have not even been noticed, much less agitated, because of the environment of ‘black hole’ clamped on the area,” Mr Babar said. “One such act is the denial to candidates and their party leaders to freely reach out to voters by imposing Section 144.”
The former senator said the imposition of measures like Section 144 would nip the opportunity given to the people of tribal districts to change the status quo. “The window of opportunity afforded by the July 20 elections to change the status quo is being closed down by Section 144,” the PPP leader wrote.
Beginning with South Waziristan, he informed the ECP, the PPP leadership planned to visit the erstwhile tribal areas to campaign for the party’s candidates. “However, it feels handicapped because of Section 144 and disallowing outsiders’ entry, as happened last week when a fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, of which the undersigned was also a member, was disallowed from entering North Waziristan,” said Mr Babar.
The first-ever elections on 16 general seats of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas are scheduled to take place on July 20.
Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2019