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Pakistan's tribals vote after 50 years

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, people of seven tribal agencies and frontier regions, popularly known as FATA, took part in the direct franchise to elect eight representatives to the national assembly.

People clad in traditional dresses were seen outside polling booths, waiting for their turn to exercise their vote, which has been denied to them for 50 years.

There is a lot of excitement among the voters of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, reports reaching here said.

Elections for the eight seats are being held on a non-party basis and only 3,500 tribal leaders, influential jagirdars and landlords are in the fray.

The decision to allow over 1.6 million tribals, including 400,000 women, to take part in the adult franchise was taken by the caretaker government.

The response in the region is tremendous and 298 candidates have filed their nominations.

The report further said that very few women voters were seen outside the booths in Kurram, South Waziristan and the frontier regions.

The FATA consists of Mohamand, Kurram, Orakzai, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Bajaur, Khyber Agency and frontier regions.

The government has made adequate security arrangements in the area to prevent tribal clashes. Heavy deployment of army and police have been made to ensure peace in the region.

In the fray are many educated tribal youths. But, in some areas, the tribals have refused to register their women as voters. This is evident in Mohamand constituency where only 1,887 women have been registered as voters as against 157,951 males.

Similarly in North Wazirstan only 561 females have been listed. The constituency represents real tribal character in the region. Maulana Deendar, who is the chief of tribal areas, is one of the most respected leaders and is contesting from the area. Several prominent candidates, including member of the dissolved house Arsala Khan, withdrew their candidature in favour of the Maulana.

Bajaur, where the government crushed insurgency in 1994, is a strong base of the fundamentalists, who have vowed to prevent women from exercising their franchise. Only 38 women were registered from the seat, the lowest in the entire belt. The strongest candidate is Daud Khan, son of the Nawab of Bajaur agency.

In contrast, in South Wiziristan, which happens to be the largest agency in the area in terms of population and area, women are not facing restrictions. The tribal leader's outlook here is somewhat better than in the other agencies. Raza Khan, has floated his political party - Tehrik Force Timan from here.

The party first demanded political rights for the people of the region.


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