Islamabad: A fierce competition has forced the contesting candidates to mobilize women voters in their respective constituencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) thus breaking all the social taboos hoped to surface in May 11 general elections.
Background discussions and interviews suggest that people of FATA are all set to capitalize on the opportunity to elect 12 members of the National Assembly.
Of 1616601 (more than 1.6 million) registered votes, number of women voters is 5,52794 with highest number of women registered in Bajaur Agency (132366) followed by the lowest (11,704) registered in North Waziristan Agency.
“Despite Taliban threats and social taboos our women are all set to exercise their right to vote for the first time in the FATA’s parliamentary history,” said Aftab Khan Afridi from Khyber Agency where registered number of women voters is 125,268, the second highest number after Bajaur.
On the other hand in North Waziristan Agency the headquarter of defunct TTP turnout of women voters on polling day is expected to be thin largely because of the security situation and militants’ threats.
So is the situation expected in Orakzai Agency where militants are active and 49,690 women voters might not be able to cast votes out of their fear of attacks.
Still, the candidates in the election arena in Orakzai Agency are upbeat to bring women voters to polling stations.
“You will see a large number of our women voters will cast their votes,” said Israr Khan, a JUI-F activist, while talking to The Nation.
Similarly, turnout of women voters in Kurrum Agency is expected to be much higher because of Haji Munir Khan Orakzai former FATA MPs group leader now contesting election from Kurrum Agency as JUI (F) candidate. There are 107,688 registered women voters in Kurrum Agency.
Political observers believe that wind of change is fast taking place in FATA mainly because of two factors. They say political dynamics have changed in tribal areas after extension of Political Parties Act to FATA region. The active involvement of main politico-religious parties including JUI (F), Jamat-e-Islami and JUI (S) are mobilizing the women voters in order to outwit their political rivals. “Participation of PTI in FATA elections particularly in Waziristan agencies has greatly contributed in changing the political climate,” said Aftab Khan Afridi while talking to this scribe. He was of the view that this trend would further improve political conditions in FATA where election campaign was more intense and exciting even than the election scene in the settled districts.
He was optimistic that women voters would make significant difference in enhancing overall turn out in FATA despite security threats by militants.
Source: The Nation