- Improvements for the future
The former Federally Administered Tribal Areas went through on Saturday with their first ever vote for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. Much less noticed was the fact that never before in Pakistan had there been a vote for such a large portion of a provincial assembly. Yet paradoxically, the fate of the provincial government was not at stake. It so happens that the PTI government has such a large majority, that even if the opposition had won all seats, it would not have threatened the government. As it is, though, what with seven independents (who should fall into the government’s lap) and two PTI men among the 16 new MPAs, the government can claim victory in these historic polls. Presumably, the next step of integration will be the induction of provincial ministers from FATA.
It is not too long ago that the people of FATA were deeply embroiled in the War on Terror, with first militants landing in their midst, and then the Pakistan Army moving in to root them out. It was only in 1996 that the people of FATA got adult franchise, their eight MNAs previously being elected by an electorate limited to certain selected individuals, and only in 2011 were political parties allowed to operate. The War on Terror encouraged the merger of the FATA in the political mainstream.
It is noteworthy that the elections were held peacefully, but the elections cannot be described as entirely fair, because some candidates were not allowed to campaign freely. That move may have yielded results, as no one belonging to the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement was elected, even though two MNAs were elected from the area (as independents), both of whom are now in detention as a result of the May 26 checkpost firing incident in North Waziristan, and whose production orders were not issued by the National Assembly Speaker. However, that is a sign that an area supposedly prone to violence, has chosen the path of peacefulness in deciding its representatives. It is also a good omen for the future, and it is to be expected that future elections in the former FATA, both national and provincial, will be an improvement on these, as these areas become bound to the rest of the country, and its people find themselves playing an increasingly prominent role in the running of the province.