KURRAM AGENCY: The backwardness of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas can be gauged by the fact that the adult franchise system was introduced in it in 1997—exactly 50 years after the inception of the country.
Astonishingly enough, unlike the rest of the country, the contenders could not contest the election on party basis till 2011 when the Political Parties Act, 2002 was extended to the trial belt.
FATA has 12 seats in the National Assembly, consisted of 342 members, whereas in 104-member Senate it sends eight members to represent them, making a total of 20 in the 446-member Parliament. Being administered by the federal government, FATA has neither a provincial assembly nor it can send its representatives on any provincial legislature of the country.
In continuation of the democratic process, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conducted general elections on May 11, 2013, facilitating the electorate across the country to send their representatives to the national and provincial assemblies.
Nevertheless, elections on some constituencies could not be held mainly due to the deteriorated law and order situation. Also, the commission holds elections on the seats which fall vacant at the Senate, National Assembly and provincial legislature due to certain reasons.
The last such activity the ECP held was by-election in Peshawar on October 26, 2017 where a National Assembly seat fell vacant owing to the death of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s parliamentarian Gulzar Khan in August 28 last year. The next assignment is to conduct by-election in Lodhran on 12th the instant.
During the last general elections, 11 contenders from FATA could make it to the National Assembly as polls could not be held on one of the two constituencies of Kurram Agency, NA-38, due to law and order situation.
For the first time in FATA history, 2013 general elections were held on party-basis
The Political Parties Act, 2002 led the tribespersons in the tribal belt to enthusiastically participate in the electioneering for upcoming general elections of 2013 despite severe security threats in the whole tribal region, bordering war-torn Afghanistan. The new law, for the first time in FATA history, provided holding of party-based elections.
However, the election on NA-38 was postponed after a suicide bombing on an election rally of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) candidate Haji Munir Orakzai in Sewak area in Central Kurram on May 7, 2013. The tragic incident claimed 28 lives besides leaving another 50 people injured, triggering military swoop in this militants-infested area. Hundreds of thousands of local tribespersons, predominantly from Para Chamkani tribe, were left with no other option but to move to safer places in other parts of the country. A number of uprooted people were accommodated in Durrani camp in Kurram Agency.
Kurram Agency has two National Assembly seats: NA-37 and NA-38. The latter is considered to be bigger constituency both in terms of population and area. Wishing not to be named, an official of the local political administration told Peshawar Today that in Kurram Agency most of the terrorist activities were carried out in Central Kurram which is why it witnessed a number of military operations to flush out militants. He went on to add that after the completion of military drive in Central Kurram it was an uphill task to repatriate the displaced families. The mountainous terrain, he adds, was the main hurdle to the successful completion of a number of development projects so as to turn the area into a livable place. Moreover, the political administration could not ensure peaceful environment to attract the national and international donors.
Shaukat Aziz, a resident of the constituency, believes that a number of civil society organizations switched their development projects to the adjoining NA-37. “Our funds were shifted to another constituency just because we did not have our representative [who could raise voice for our rights],” says Aziz.
“Nobody listens to us because we do not have any elected representative from our constituency”: Abdur Rasheed
Abdur Rasheed, an activist of the Jamaat-i-Islami from the same constituency, agrees with Aziz. We have approached all the offices concerned to get teaching staff for a middle school in our area, but to no avail. “Nobody listens to us because we do not have any elected representative from our constituency.”
Munsif Khan has same concerns to share with the Peshawar Today. “The government has established a trauma centre in our constituency. But our repeated request failed to persuade the authorities concerned to assign staff to it,” he says, adding that same is the case with our college.
He added that the former member of the National Assembly from their constituency had promised them to get an office of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) established in central Kurram. “NADRA has blocked a large number of national identity cards of the resident of central Kurram, which is why we direly need a NADRA office at our doorsteps.”
Muhammad Anwar is a local tribesman, who has to his credit to have authored a book on Kurram Agency, thinks that the postponement of polls on NA-38 has dragged it back by at least 100 years. “Our constituency,” he says, “should have been given priority in development projects because our health and education infrastructure have come to a grinding halt due to militancy,” he says. He adds that only an elected representative can effectively take up such issues with the quarters concerned.
Engr. Tor Gul Chamkani says that having no elected representative confronted them with a plethora of grievances. The residents of every tribal agency, he says, can get their voices heard in the National Assembly through their representatives, “which we cannot.”
Malik Khalil says that a number of embankments on River Kurram were made in NA-37 to stop flooding but not a single one was constructed in their constituency and the only reason behind this is that they do not have an elected representative.
Munir Orakzai, who elected twice from NA-38 in 2008 and 2002 general elections respectively, told Peshawar Today that it is beyond comprehension that even after the restoration of peace the authorities appeared to be reluctant to hold election on NA-38. He accused the MNA from NA-37 and senator from Kurram Agency to have diverted the funds of NA-38 to their respective areas.
Giving official version, the spokesman of the ECP in Peshawar, Sohail Ahmed Qureshi, told Peshawar Today that they could not hold election on NA-38 unless FATA security gives them security clearance.
Likewise, Lower Kurram Assistant Political Agent Tariq Hussain, told Peshawar Today that they tried their level best to hold election on NA-38 but due to the concerns of the security agencies vis-à-vis law and order it could not be done.