–ECP spokesperson says official results will be announced within a day
–Reports term voters turnout ‘decent’
–285 candidates, including two women, in the run for 16 seats
PESHAWAR: The first-ever election in the merged tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ended without any major untoward incident on Saturday and the counting of votes is underway, with preliminary results starting to pour in by 6pm.
The seven tribal districts were merged last year into the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Before that, the tribal areas were federally administered, and residents could only vote for representatives in the National Assembly.
Polling started at 8am amid tight security and continued until 5pm without any breaks. According to reports from the area, voter turnout remained decent.
Though the deadline was 5pm, the voters present inside the polling stations were allowed to cast their votes even beyond the deadline.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set up 1,897 polling stations across the region, previously called FATA. Of them, 554 were declared highly sensitive and 461 sensitive.
Sohail Khan, a spokesman for the provincial election body, said 285 candidates, including two women, are running for sixteen seats. Some 2.8 million voters are registered for Saturday’s elections, which opened at 8 a.m. local time amid heightened security.
A firing incident took place at a polling station in PK-103 constituency of Mohmand district between the supporters of two political parties. The firing left two men — a worker of the Awami National Party and a passerby — injured, said police.
According to the election watchdog, the final results may take a day before they were compiled and released to media and its website.
Its spokesperson Nadeem Qasim said it may take a day for the official results to be announced in ex-FATA elections.
He said there are issues of mobile and internet service in some areas of merged districts while in some areas movement is not possible during the night.
He said polling agent of each party would be there at each polling station and Form-45 would be handed to those polling agents. He said results would be compiled after the Form-45 will be collected by the Returning Officers.
PREPARATIONS FOR POLLS:
The ECP had finalised arrangements for the elections on Friday and handed over the relevant materials to the polling staff in their respective areas.
The elections will see 16 seats contested by 285 candidates from all the main national parties as well as independents. But the issue of how parliamentary democracy can be brought to a region that was for centuries governed by often harsh tribal custom has added uncertainty to the process.
Tens of thousands of troops and special police units have been sent to the province for polling day but there were many complaints of vote-rigging and influence peddling by some of the candidates and their supporters.
“It’s the first time we are electing our representatives for the provincial assembly but unfortunately most of the candidates are lavishly spending money on their political campaigns and buying votes,” said one tribesman, Bilal Rahman Afridi, in Jamrud subdivision of Khyber tribal district.
“How can they serve us when they are elected on the basis of their wealth?” he asked.
In the past two decades, the region became known as a haven for militant jihadi groups operating on both sides of the border with Afghanistan and tens of thousands died during a years-long campaign by the military to crush the militants.