The people in North and South Waziristan districts formerly tribal agencies saw violence, militancy and military operations for more than 15 years. Taliban groups were used to control these two districts for long period of time. The Pakistan army launched massive military operation to clear the area. Pakistan army ousted banned TTP groups from the both districts and restored the law and order and writ of the state.
The voters in both districts will go to polls on 20 July to elect 4 member of provincial assembly for the very first time. In the 25 July, 2018 general elections, both the national assembly seats were won by the independent candidates. Both are now is in prison on different charges.
Both districts seem in the grip of Pashtun nationalism as Pashtun Tahafuz movement (PTM) enjoys considerable support among the youth. The nationalist sentiments are running high in both districts. All the contesting candidates are trying to get the support of nationalist youth.
Even mainstream political force like PPP has cottoned on this fact to win July 20 elections for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in North and South Waziristan tribal districts. The surge in nationalist sentiments has put JUI-F candidates in hot water in all four constituencies in North and South Waziristan despite the fact that the party has a big network of its affiliated seminaries in both the merged districts.
Even though, candidates are trying to get the support of PTM supporters and especially youth but they are not using the inflammatory slogans of PTM. All the candidates are supporting the demands of tribal people including constitutional, political, economic and democratic rights for tribal people. The PTM is campaigning on these issues. Political parties and independent candidates kept the distance from PTM and its anti- army slogans.
Candidates are playing nationalist card in their campaign. But intra-tribe divide has also become another factor which is being used by candidates to influence voters in Wana. Even candidates having affiliation with PTI and PPP are using nationalist card in their campaign to attract voters.
The campaigning has been very peaceful so far. No major violent incident took place so far. The military and other law enforcement agencies are playing active role in this regard to keep the law and order under control. Electioneering is picking up momentum in both the tribal districts since the administrations lifted curfew and Section 144. Candidates are taking out vehicular rallies and organising corner meetings in towns and rural areas.
A total of 39 candidates are in the race for two seats in North Waziristan where 320,177 voters including 109,521 female voters are eligible for casting their vote. For PK-111, 19 candidates are contesting polls while 20 candidates are contesting for PK-112.
Tough contest expected
Tough contest is expected among independent candidate Jamal Dawar, Mohammad Iqbal Khan of PTI, Qari Samiullah of JUI-F and independent Assadullah in PK-111. Situation in PK-112 is also very sketchy and independent candidate Mir Kalam may prove hard nut for Mufti Sidiqullah of JUI-F, Malik Aurangzeb of PTI and Malik Ashraf of ANP.
The adjacent South Waziristan tribal district is likely to witness close contest among independents, PTI, JUI-F, ANP and PPP. Total registered voters in South Waziristan are 386,829 including 149,060 females.
JUI-F has allotted ticket to Hafiz Isamud Din, son of slain MNA Maulana Merajud Din for PK-113. Isam’s main challengers are Afsar Khan of PTI, Najeebullah of PPP and Hayat Preghal, an independent candidate. ANP did not field candidate in Mehsud tribe dominated PK-113.
Majority of the population is still residing in adjacent Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts owing to non-availability of basic amenities and services. This situation has forced candidates to organise campaign in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank. The candidates are arranging transport to bring voters to the polling stations in their native areas. The candidate succeeded to bring the voters in big number is likely to emerge as winner.
The Ahmadzai Wazir tribe dominated PK-114 is bustling with election activities and candidates are running vigorous campaign. Streets in Wana Bazaar have been decorated with parties’ flags and banners. Lifting Section 144 has triggered more enthusiasm in the election campaign.
For PK-114, total 21 candidates are taking part in the polls. Rifts in PTI can divide its vote bank in Wana. Ajab Gul Wazir and Zubair Khan are contesting polls as independent candidates after PTI allotted ticket to Naseer Khan.
Close contest is expected among Naseer Khan of PTI, independent Ajab Gul Wazir, who is relative of detained MNA Ali Wazir, Maulana Salih Khan of JUI-F and Imran Mokhlis of PPP.
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22 August, 2019