PESHAWAR: Senior tribal leaders and candidates of some opposition parties on Wednesday demanded that the apex poll body shift all such polling stations which are located in sensitive areas to secure locations for elections in the newly-merged districts. Moreover, they have demanded that women security personnel be deployed in the women-only polling stations to enhance women participation.
These concerns were raised during a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Wednesday. Tribal leaders Faizullah Kukikhel and Malik Abdullah Zahir along with other tribal leaders from all the erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (Fata) stated that a majority of the tribal district residents have welcomed the merger process.
Furthermore, they said that residents were elated at the prospect of electing their direct representatives in the provincial assembly for the first time in their history later in July.
We demand that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) hold free and fair elections in the tribal areas, and not push the opposition candidates to the wall, they said.
With the ECP handing over security for the upcoming polls in the ex-Fata areas to the military, the tribal leaders suggested female security should be deployed at the polling stations meant for women.
“We demanded the ECP [to help foster] healthier turn out of women in the elections by stationing female security personnel in the women-only polling stations, while there should be no combined polling stations in the tribal areas, as the traditions and customs [of the region] do not allow the women to freely mix with men,” Kukikhel stated.
Zahir demanded that copies of the polling result sheet — Form 45 — should be shared with the polling agents, while official results should be shared before the media so that no changes can be made once the results have been finalised.
He further demanded that the district returning officer should also share the official result cards with the polling agents, representatives of the candidates and the media to eliminate any chance of meddling by returning officers.
Noting that polling stations in some areas have been termed as ‘sensitive’ owing to the precarious security situation, they demanded that the ECP shift polling stations from these areas to safer and more secure locations so that “free and fair elections can be held without any fear,” they stated
They went on to warn that if the Election Act 2017 is violated in the merged districts, they will retaliate and all responsibility will lie with the apex poll body.
Armed forces will be deployed inside and outside the polling stations for all 16 seats from July 18 to July 21 to assist the ECP in conducting free, fair and transparent elections after the polling body requested the military under Articles 220 and 245 of the Constitution.
Moreover, the security forces will be deployed at the Printing Corporation of Pakistan in Islamabad from July 5 to July 20 in order to make stringent security arrangements for transporting and storing of ballot papers.
They will escort the ballot papers from the printing corporation to the offices of the District Returning Officers (DRO) and the Returning Officers (RO) and then from the offices of ROs to the polling stations. After polling ends, the security forces will escort the ballot papers back to the district treasuries and ECP strong rooms as per the plan issued by the commission. Troops will remain at the offices of returning officers until the consolidation of elections results.
Security forces will also be deployed at all venues where presiding officers, senior assistant presiding officers and polling officers will be trained from June 24 to July 7.
Furthermore, the ECP has set up some 1,895 polling stations in the ex-Fata areas. Of these, 1,037 polling stations are combined while 482 are exclusive for men and 376 for women.
PK-110 Orakzai has the most combined polling stations with 167 and the fewest exclusive polling stations with four each for men and women each. PK107 Khyber-III had the highest number of exclusive polling stations with 75 dedicated for men and 55 for women. PK-106 Khyber-II had the lowest number of combined stations with just three while it had 48 stations for men and 38 for women.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2019.