Shortcomings of Political Parties Act: FATA politicians call for quick reforms before polls

Present 40 recommendations for free and fair elections in tribal areas.


Asad Zia March 16, 2013
Displaced by conflict, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) deserve the same right to vote as all Pakistanis, says JI provincial amir. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

PESHAWAR:


Political parties have vowed to continue their election campaign in the tribal areas and have made 40 recommendations for free and fair polls in the region.


The political parties’ joint committee on reforms for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), known as the Fata Committee, met on Thursday to present its assessment of the pre-election environment in the tribal areas and its vision for further political progress.

The Fata Committee comprises representatives of 11 political parties, including the Awami National Party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, National Party (NP), Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Qaumi Watan Party.

During the meeting, various party leaders indicated that political agents, the security establishment and militants were all responsible for restricting them from operating freely in Fata for election campaigns. They stated intelligence agencies regularly intimidate them and their political workers.

The members pointed out voters in Fata do not enjoy the same legislative representation or accountability as other citizens because Article 247 of the Constitution prevents Fata MNAs (and all members of the National Assembly) from legislating for their area.

The committee also convened 53 political party leaders from seven agencies and frontier regions to discuss the realities of campaigning and the status of implementation of the 2011 Fata reforms, including amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Talking to The Express Tribune, PPP leader and Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Advisor Mirza M Jihadi said with the exception of South Waziristan and Bara, peace has been restored in the region and his party will contest elections from the area.

NP Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) President Mukhtar Bacha said all parties have agreed that despite deteriorating law and order they will take part in the election. He demanded the elections should be held in the supervision of the judiciary instead of the political administration.

JI Provincial Amir Professor Mohammad Ibrahim said displaced by conflict, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) deserve the same right to vote as all Pakistanis.

PML-N spokesperson Arsallah Khan Hoti welcomed the extension of the Political Parties Act to the tribal areas and said they had received a large number of applications from Fata despite security problems in the area.

The meeting highlighted the shortcomings in the implementation of the Political Parties Order extension and obstacles to their operations in the tribal areas.

Tribal leaders said the 40 recommendations should be approved before the general elections. The recommendations will be submitted for immediate consideration to the new caretaker government as well as the President, the election commission, NADRA, SAFRON ministry, K-P governor and the Fata Secretariat.

Salient recommendations

1.     The government should ensure proper implementation of FCR amendments and Political Parties Order 2011

2.     Political parties should be permitted to hold meetings without restrictions or advance notice

3.     Any ‘vote-buying’ activities should be punishable by law, including the disqualification of candidates violating the regulation

4.     Reserved MNA seats for women of Fata should be established, polling stations for women should be set up in all agencies and Frontier Regions

5.     Access and security should be provided to the media so that they can enter Fata and freely cover elections and political parties

6.     Fata should be represented in the federal cabinet of the caretaker government

7.     The governor must not interfere in or influence elections

8.     The army is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

9.     All of these recommendations should be implemented and enforced immediately, prior to the day of general elections 2013

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2013.

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