PESHAWAR: The 10 political parties represented in the Joint Committee on Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Reforms have submitted recommendations to their respective party leaderships to ensure free and fair elections in the tribal areas.
The recommendations, which include demands to be made to the Election Commission of Pakistan to make the polls more transparent, have been sent to different parties for consideration and feedback, ANP stalwart and central deputy secretary of the committee Nawabzada Mohsin Ali Khan told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
“Yes, we held a meeting around 12 days earlier in Islamabad, wherein key concerns requiring action from the ECP were discussed and recommendations have now been submitted to the leaderships of respective parties,” said Khan.
“As far as ANP is concerned, the recommendations have been submitted to the party’s central president Asfandyar Wali Khan and he is expected to give his feedback in a week. Other parties are expected to do the same. It will enable us to make demands and recommendations to the ECP and government for conducting successful general elections in Fata. We will make our demands public by mid-January.”
The Joint Committee on FATA Reforms was established in 2010 to identify and lobby for reforms through building consensus, increasing awareness and promoting dialogue in the tribal areas.
Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), National Party (NP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) are part of the committee.
PML-Q Central Senior Vice President Ajmal Khan Wazir said a letter has already been sent to the ECP, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), President Asif Ali Zardari, K-P Governor Syed Masood Kausar and the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, proposing certain recommendations as “political parties prepare to participate in elections in Fata for the first time in history.”
Wazir said the decision to allow judicial officers to serve as ECP returning officers and district officers should also be extended to Fata.
As there are no judicial officers in Fata, officers from adjacent districts (Lower Dir, Malakand, Charsadda, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank and DI Khan) should be sent to Fata to serve as election officials, added Wazir.
He also cited the Supreme Court’s orders saying polling stations “should not be at a distance of more than two kilometres from the place of residence of voters.” He said the decision should apply to Fata to ensure equal access for voters.
JI leader from Fata, Sahibzada Haroon Rashid urged the prompt registration of voters. He said the ECP and NADRA should immediately launch a campaign and work closely with political parties to ensure that all those receiving new national identity cards (NICs) are also registered to vote.
Rashid said the tribal areas have remained volatile due to sensitive law and order situation for years and more than 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) face disenfranchisement in the upcoming general elections. “All IDPs from Fata should be provided with the opportunity to vote.”
He reiterated the committee would make its demands public by mid-January and then push the government for implementation of its recommendations.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2013.