Political parties in Khyber Agency have a new constituency to win over: the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Representatives of different parties recently visited the IDP camp in a bid to woo voters for the NA-45 and NA-46 seats.
However, while IDPs have won the right to vote, most of them do not know where they will cast the ballot in the upcoming general elections. “It will be convenient if the polling station is set up inside the camp,” said Hussain Afridi, who currently resides at the Jalozai Camp. But he added that a large number of displaced people do not have identity cards, and thus would not be able to vote.
According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), 79,746 IDPs from Khyber Agency are residing in the camp, while 311,540 IDPs are living elsewhere.
A Jamaat-e-Islami candidate from Khyber Agency, Shah Faisal Afridi said that in the previous elections there were 183,000 and 80,000 registered voters in NA-46 and NA-45, respectively. Now, there are a total of about 300,000 registered voters, he added.
The parties are concerned if the law and order situation will be conducive for the people to cast votes. For the same reason, party representatives met the agency’s additional political agent (APA) Syed Ahmad Jan. Assistant Election Commissioner for Khyber Agency, Abdul Qayyum Shinwari, was also present at the meeting along with other officials.
During the meeting, Jan said polling stations will be set up if the environment so permits, but stressed that alternative measures will be employed otherwise. Party leaders also told the APA that setting up a polling station in Bara Bazaar will make it easier for IDPs to vote.
According to Afridi, most IDPs live in rented houses along Ring Road, Hayatabad, Haji Camp, Kohat Road and other areas of Peshawar. If proper arrangements are not made, these people will not be able to vote, he said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s potential candidate for NA-46, Iqbal Afridi maintained the government was not interested in solving the problems faced by the people of Khyber Agency. People will be deprived of their right to choose a sincere representative if they are not provided the opportunity to vote, Iqbal added.
PDMA Spokesperson Adnan Khan said the authority has dispatched a summary requesting for a transitory system for Jalozai and Toga Sarai camps.
PDMA has also requested the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to register all those aged 18 years or older. “It is difficult to cover those IDPs who are not living in camps and the PDMA is not responsible for them,” said Khan. “We are still waiting on the election commission’s decision on how to proceed in setting up polling stations.”
Election Commission of Pakistan Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Deputy Director Khushal Khan said it was the first time the commission has been confronted with an issue of this nature and added that the final decision will be taken by the ECP secretary.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2012.