Political shifts in tribal districts: Kurram's unease over reduced representation in National Assembly

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Muhammad Faheem

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Political shifts in tribal districts: Kurram's unease over reduced representation in National Assembly

Muhammad Faheem

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Read In Urdu

The biggest harm in the new constituencies has been the representation of the former tribal people in the National Assembly (NA), from where six of the 12 seats of the NA have been withdrawn. However, there is more concern among the people of Kurram.

Until June 2018, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), comprising seven agencies, had 12 seats in the NA and eight special seats in the Senate.

After the 25th constitutional amendment, these tribal areas were merged into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Seven tribal districts and six subdivisions (former frontier regions) were represented by 16 seats in the provincial assembly.

Similarly, 12 seats remained intact in the NA. However, eight seats in the Senate were abolished.

There were 272 general seats of the NA in the 2018 general elections, now 266. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) proposals regarding new constituencies under the recent census, one constituency of the NA has been created with a population of 9,07,913.

As the total number of seats in the NA has decreased, the NA seats of KP have now decreased from 51 to 45, and all these six seats have been given to tribal districts. It could be argued that the population formula has the most significant impact on the former tribal districts.

In the last election, two members of the NA were elected from the Bajaur district; now, there is only one seat left here. There were two national constituencies in the Khyber district, which has become one now, while in the Kurram district, two seats have been reduced to one.

Orakzai had the only seat that was eliminated in the last elections. Now, the districts of Orakzai and Hangu have a joint national constituency.

Two members of the NA were elected from two districts (Upper and Lower) of South Waziristan. But now both have been merged into a single constituency. Thus, one seat has been reduced here as well.

Similarly, in 2018, the sixth National Constituency was created by merging six former Frontier Regions (FR). It was probably the longest NA constituency in the country with Hasan Khel (FR Peshawar), Dara Adamkhel (FR Kohat), Wazir (FR Bannu), Bettani (FR Lakki Marwat), Drazinda (FR DI Khan) and Jandola (FR Tank) included in it.

Now, the seat containing FRs is also gone. Each FR is subsumed into the national and provincial constituency of the adjoining district.

However, one NA seat each for North Waziristan and Mehmand has been retained.

Due to the reduced representation of these war-torn districts in the NA, the issues of development funds are in place; there are fears of increasing tribal and regional problems here. District Kurram has been suffering from communal problems for a long time, and there is no solution in sight.

District Kurram has a population of 7,85,434. One NA (NA-37) and two Provincial Assembly constituencies have been formed here.

PK-95 consists of Kurram One Tehsil Central and Tehsil Lower Kurram (Excluding Patwar Circle, Hasan Ali, Ibrahimzai, and Ramki of legislation Alizai). The population of this constituency is 4,79,700.

PK-96 Kurram-2 includes Patwars of Hasan Ali, Ibrahimzai, and Ramki (part) of legislation Alizai of Tehsil Lower Kurram apart from Tehsil Upper Kurram. The population here is estimated to be 3,05,734.

Four applications have been submitted to the ECP regarding objections to delimitation from Kurram district. There is only one application for objection, whereas,  in the remaining three petitions, the proposed provincial boundary of the district has been requested to be retained.

However, in the application of Upper Kurram, Muhammad Idris, there is an appeal to maintain two national constituencies (Upper and Lower) based on social issues for which suggestions have been made for the division of areas and flexibility in margins.

Dr Sajid Hussain has been elected Member of the NA from upper Kurram (former NA-46) in the last four elections. He was earlier successful as an independent candidate and on the ticket of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Munir Orakzai won from Lower and Central Kurram in the 2002 and 2008 elections. Due to the troubled situation in  2013, election was not possible in this constituency. In 2018, Munir Orkazai was once again elected as a Member of the Assembly from this constituency (former NA-94).

However, after the death of Munir Orakzai, a by-election was held in 2021 and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Isaf’s (PTI) Fakhar Zaman Bangash won.

Fakhar Zaman Bangash tells Lok Sujag that the issue of creating a national constituency in Kurram is very serious.

“There is now the fear of a Shia vs Sunni election. It is not right to consider only the population to create two constituencies.”

He says that, for one, it will not be easy for the candidate to reach the entire population. He further says that elections will be a great success in the current situation of law and order in Kurram. “Lower and Central Kurram people have been deprived of representation for five years in the past as well.”

A senior journalist, Ali Afzal Afzaal, says the problem will be severe in the Kurram district. The NA had two seats here, so Sunnis and Shias got representation. Representatives of both were elected from separate constituencies and operated in their areas.

"Only one representative can be elected due to a single constituency. In the past, no elected representative, whether a Shia or a Sunni, preferred the work of people from other sections.

There has never been any major problem with the two having separate representatives."

Journalist Nabi Jan Orakzai explains that the district is administratively run as two districts due to sectarian divisions. Along with the District Education and Health Officer, separate Additional Officers have been posted for Lower and Central Kurram so that people do not have to go to other areas.

He says that the Shia community has a majority population in the Upper Kurram, while in Central and Lower, their Sunn counterparts are in the majority. But the voting rate is low here. Upper Kurram has a higher education rate and voting ratio.

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Nabi says no candidate can campaign in the entire district due to sectarian issues.

"A candidate from Lower and Central Kurram cannot even think of moving to Upper Kurram. Similarly, the candidate of Upper Kurram will also hesitate to go to several areas of Lower Kurram. In such a case, no one will be able to represent the other region even if they win."

In the KP Assembly, the constituency of the Provincial Assembly, which consisted of frontier regions, ended. However, a provincial constituency has been added to Bajaur. Therefore, 16 constituencies of the provincial assembly remain intact.

Journalist Arshad Momand says that the loss of eight seats in the Senate has caused a loss to the tribal districts.

"The elected representatives in the provincial assembly struggled for four years for authority. Members of the NA and the Senate hold funds. First, seats in the Senate and now six seats in the NA have been taken away from the tribals."

Published on 11 Nov 2023

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He writes on tourism and archeology, including municipalities, social affairs, women, youth, children and human rights. He also teaches at a private university in Peshawar

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