ISLAMABAD - Over 3,000 seats reserved for minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will remain uncontested as the province is all set to witness by-elections on February 21 in districts where polls were postponed during the bloody LG elections held last year.

According to official documents, only 33 members of minorities got elected unopposed while 3017 seats reserved for the religious minorities will remain vacant as the candidates, according to official sources, could not file nomination papers after feeling threatened by terrorists.

“The 33 elected members of minorities could not campaign and were rather elected unopposed. The issue is really serious but since nobody pointed it out, we too remained quiet,” a senior official in Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told The Nation seeking anonymity.

Dr Jatinder, a trader in inner-city of Peshawar and member of Sikh minority, told this reporter on telephone that there existed grave threats to lives of minorities before the LG polls conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last year.

“Majority of our members avoided to participate in the polls at that time. We agreed to remain in low profile as electoral campaigning would have exposed us to terrorist attacks,” Dr Jatider, resident of Jogan Shah in Peshawar city, said.

He said Jogan Shah was home to 300 Sikh families adding the number of Hindus and Christians was much bigger as compared to Sikhs in Peshawar and other parts of the province.

At least 11 people were killed and scores got injured in election-related violence across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the polls held on May 30 last year forcing election authorities to postpone elections on 4491 seats across the province.

What worries the minorities in KP is the decision of the ECP to conduct by-elections on thousands of seats without giving a chance of nomination papers to minority groups to contest on the vacant seats.

On February 15, the KP Home Department gave green signal to ECP for holding by-elections as law and order situation has improved significantly across the militancy-hit province.

“This is totally injustice that the ECP has fixed a polling day instead of issuing a formal election schedule. It should have issued schedule and should have provided a chance to minorities to contest elections by submitting nomination papers,” Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani who is member of National Assembly and politically affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).

Mr Vankwani, who is also patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, said he will personally convey his resentment to the ECP and PTI-led KP government over the ‘controversial’ date of by-polls without election schedule.

“It is heartening that only 33 members of minority got elected unopposed while a whopping number of 3017 seats reserved for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities remained uncontested. This is embarrassing,” the lawmaker said.

Haroon Sarabdiyal, Chairman Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement and resident of Dera Ismail Khan, told The Nation that thousands of seats reserved for minorities will remain uncontested.

However, he said, besides terror threats, one major reason behind the lack of enthusiasm on part of minorities to contest the polls was that the PTI-led government has doled out no authority for the members on councillors seats.

No senior official in the ECP was willing to explain as to why the election schedule was not issued for the by-polls. Additional Director PR in ECP was not available for comments as he was on a four-month official training.

But the sources said the by-polls in the KP were scheduled to be held on January 23 this year but were again postponed in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Bacha Khan University.

Meanwhile, the ECP will hold a meeting today for reviewing security measures in KP ahead of the by-elections.

The polls will be held on 609 polling stations in all districts of the province except Kohistan for which 666,000 ballot papers have been printed while over 4,000 election staff will perform duties.