July 20, 2019, will go down as a historic day in the political annals of the country.  For the first time, more than 2.8 million voters in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) will be electing their representatives for the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) tomorrow. All major political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), ANP are eyeing the political contest in the erstwhile FATA.

Every political party is desperate to win the majority in the polls. As the ruling party, PTI wants to secure maximum seats to increase its numbers in the provincial assembly further; opposition parties are keen on giving a fierce battle to the incumbent government in the upcoming election in FATA.

Who will emerge victorious is the question that has clouded the minds of ordinary citizens and analysts alike. Because PTI is the ruling party in KP, its chances of securing a majority on the seats reserved for the tribal districts are high. Nevertheless, we also know that the region, historically, has given preference to either politician belonging to or affiliated with religious, political parties, Jamiat Ulema Islami Fazal-ur-Rehman (JUI-F) in particular, or independent candidates. Therefore, the chances are that it will be a tight contest for PTI.

Also, one cannot ignore other parties like ANP, PPP and PML-N. In a post-merger FATA, all parties are allowed to propagate their manifestoes. So the manifestoes and political campaign of these parties may also have attracted voters. PTI needs to be wary of ANP as ANP is now trying to appeal to those who sympathise with the Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). In areas like South and North Waziristan, ANP can emerge as a possible victor. Afterall, Mohsin Dawar the elected representative from North Waziristan, though he contested election as an independent candidate, has his sympathies with ANP according to some sources.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is prepared for organising the elections. So far, no unfortunate incident of violence has marred the pre-election environment. Therefore, hoping for a peaceful polling process is not an idealistic dream.

That said, it is true that result of the election in the merged tribal districts would not affect the PTI government because the party holds a two-thirds majority in the assembly. Still, the defeat for the incumbent government in the present polls will be a significant blow to the popularity of PTI in a time when the next general election is four years away.