Akbar Nasir Khan
Almost all major parties have their presence in FATA. Whether it translates into seats or not, political workers have embossed their presence on this part of Pakistan which is a healthy sign of the democratic tradition.
If we look at the population distribution of FATA, one can confidently say that a sizable number of voters are not living in the area. Karachi may be one place where there are a lot of internally displaced people (IDPs) but there are many others living in other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from Dera Ismail Khan to the Jallozai Camp. They will miss the zeal and fervour of election which is visible in some tehsils of Khyber and Bajaur Agencies. If you visit Landi Kotal, you can see party flags everywhere but this is not the case in Bara Tehsil of Khyber Agency.
Signs of political activity are not equally visible in all agencies. From some areas of South and North Waziristan, people have moved to nearby districts due to security reasons so there are no rallies and processions there. Although FATA authorities are making arrangements to establish polling stations in areas where security is comparatively better and they are genuinely trying to ensure the protection of voters from their homes to the polling stations, it will not be possible to ensure security over a long period of time. A low turn out in the elections in these areas will be an indicator of the effective control of the Taliban, which is true for all other agencies. It will be a formidable challenge to make this process free, of fear after the threats issued by Taliban against three major political parties, the PPP, MQM and the ANP.
FATA achieved adult franchise as late as in 1997. In 2007, the constituencies were named after their respective areas rather than being assigned numbers, but now they are numbered. In Tribal Area I, NA 36, which is Mohmand Agency, the total registered voters are 108,081, according to the ECP. In Tribal Area II, or NA 37, which comprises Upper Kurram Agency, the total voters are 138,559. In Tribal area III, NA 38, Lower Kurram, the total voters are 95,484. In Orakzai Agency, NA 39 or Tribal Area IV, there are 97,620 voters. North Waziristan, NA 40, or Tribal Area V, has a total of 96,448 voters, while NA 41, Tribal Area VI, is Waziristan Agency with 86,598 voters. The NA 42 constituency, Tribal Area VII, is also Ladha South Waziristan Agency with 122,373 voters. Bajaur Agency, NA 43, Tribal Area VIII, has 114,139 registered voters, while NA 44, Tribal Area IX, is Bajaur Agency with 131,926 voters. NA 45, Tribal Area X, comprises Khyber Agency which also includes Landi Kotal where the total number of voters is 93,361. NA 46, Tribal Area XI, comprises Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency with 80,422 voters while NA 47, Tribal Area XII, comprises all six Frontier Regions Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki, DI Khan and Tank where the total number of voters is 120,963.
Among these, the largest number of female voters registered in NA 37 II Kurram Agency, comprise 48 per cent of the total registered voters. The smallest number of female voters is in NA 46, Khyber Agency, which is 20 percent of the total registered voters.
The use of force to maintain law and order in FATA is different from the settled areas. Conflict resolution in FATA is achieved through the council of elders as mentioned in FCR 1901. The Levies and Khasadars are used as a last resort deterrent in limited areas by the Political Agent. Traditionally, decisions are made by the elders and Jirga on the basis of collective choice to vote in favour of one candidate or the other. The one-vote, one-person formula has never been tried before and then the women are not allowed to participate by any means. The recent entry of a female candidate from FATA is the first drop of rain and can be the most significant evidence of the impact of the extension of the Political Parties Act and ICCPR.
The capacity and professional efficiency of Taliban militants vis a vis civilian armed forces like Levies and Khasadars is beside the point here because we are looking at the internal capacity of the LEAs. If we compare an established and trained Police in the rest of Pakistan with Levies and Khasadars, it is evident that the latter are much less trained. Expecting the Khasadars to ensure security will be unfair and the Levies are partly trained but their knowledge about electoral laws and violations is scant and their response to electoral violence may be inadequate in the present scenario.
The most informed, well trained man will be the Political Agent. He wears multiple caps since he is Head of Administration and Head of Judiciary and head of levies and Khasadars and will now be given another hat of District Returning Officer. The Agency Election Security Committee (AESC) as notified by the ECP would have been reduced to one man. But quite rightly, the Commandant of Frontier Corps in the agency and Elections Officer of the area have been made part of the AESC. However, the PA requires assistance to familiarise his levies and Khasadars with the concept of electoral laws so they can perform this role better. It may be more beneficial for the FATA administration, including PAs, to be engaged in a dialogue to understand public expectations and their possible options to conduct peaceful and fair elections.
Without this, it will be putting too much pressure on one person who has to execute the difficult task of conducting the first party based elections in FATA after the ratification of ICCPR in Pakistan. The difficult issue of monitoring committees and their scope are yet to be addressed by the ECP. The ECP will be making appropriate arrangements to ensure polling in IDP camps. Some of the PA offices are in the settled districts, so it may not be a major issue to conduct elections in the camps because district authorities, with the help of the armed forces, will ensure a conducive and safe polling environment in the districts. However, jurisdictional issues between district administrations may also arise about polling in IDP camps situated in settled areas of KP. Frontier regions will not face this problem as the same DC will be exercising his powers as Political Agent and it is in the spirit of FCR 1901.
Regardless of this legal argument, there will be a need to put extra emphasis to protect the IDPs because this will be their only chance to elect their representatives. The concerned authorities in FRs, Agencies and adjoining districts should undergo rapid trainings to improvise solutions according to the prevailing threats and available options. Help may be requested from experienced officers, both from law enforcement agencies and other departments and corporations, to assist the Political Administration in these first ever elections. This will also build the capacity of the agency staff to be prepared for local council elections which are expected to follow the general elections in coming years.
The writer is a Governance and Security Expert based in Islamabad