In early March, the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) indicated holding elections this June on the newly created provincial constituencies in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). But the pace with which the government is working on the subject indicates a possible delay in the process.

Given that the provincial government has yet to announce a schedule for the said exercise, the opposition parties also fear that the government might not fulfil the constitutional requirement of holding elections in the tribal districts on time. Also, they have reservations over the delimitation process that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has carried out. Neither their anxiety about a possible delay in the elections nor their objection to the delimitation exercise is without merit.

The government may be occupied with other issues but first things first, as per merger plan the provincial authorities are supposed to hold elections on provincial seats, i.e., KP 100- KP 115 within the given time frame – that is one year after the 2018 general elections. It is therefore essential for the KP government to issue a schedule for elections on seats allocated to the erstwhile FATA.

Moreover, the move of the ECP to allocate one seat to all former frontier regions (FRs), six in numbers, is absurd and nonsensical. These regions are poles apart from each other. These regions are adjacent areas to different districts. How can these make one constituency? The decision of the ECP in this regard is just beyond comprehension. The opposition parties’ reservation to the decision of ECP is justified. ECP must consider the suggestion of these parties in this regard.

The contention of the opposition parties on educating the locals of the erstwhile FATA on the importance of vote also needs consideration. A small awareness campaign on the value of voting the right candidate will be a step forward in the right direction. The demands of the opposition parties to increase the seats of tribal districts in the provincial assembly and giving representation to tribal lawmakers are also worth considering.

Although the opposition parties have made a valuable case outside the premise of the provincial assembly, the parties need to bring all these important issues regarding the start of political activity in the tribal districts on the assembly floor. Only this way the opposition can pressurise the government to take its propositions into account. While the opposition parties have pointed out certain issues in the mainstreaming of the erstwhile FATA, it is up to the government if it genuinely wants to give the people of the tribal districts the rights they have been denied so far.