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Rights group lauds Pakistan for holding elections in tribal region notorious for militancy

ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed its overall satisfaction with the provincial elections conducted in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

That these elections were held as planned – despite the brief delay – is a milestone for the people of western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

It is also to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) credit that, by and large, polling remained peaceful and was conducted in accordance with the Elections Act 2017.

Nonetheless, given allegations of manipulation made by some candidates in Bajaur and South Waziristan, HRCP urges the ECP to investigate any such complaints fairly and transparently.

HRCP also hopes that the heavy presence of security forces at polling stations will not become a permanent feature of elections in this area, and that independent observers and the media will be given easier access to allow future elections to be conducted as transparently as possible. A more vigorous electoral awareness drive should also be launched to ensure that women’s participation – both as voters and as potential candidates – increases significantly.

In addition, the government should ensure that the unanimously passed 26th Constitutional (Amendment) Bill granting more representation to erstwhile FATA in the KP provincial legislature (from 16 to 24 seats) is presented in the Senate as soon as possible.

Given the allegations of political victimisation, HRCP also urged the state not to detain elected representatives of the area without just cause.

In spite of a low voter turnout, the provincial election has been critical to cementing the area’s democratic dispensation within Pakistan.

It now falls to the newly elected candidates to fulfil their electoral pledges and ensure that the people of erstwhile FATA enjoy the rights to which they are entitled as citizens of Pakistan.

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