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Bajaur Residents Upset Over Reduction in National Assembly Seats

In the recent redistricting by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have seen a reduction of 6 seats in the National Assembly.
by TNN Editor - 07 Oct, 2023 1583
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Bilal Yasir

In the recent redistricting by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have seen a reduction of 6 seats in the National Assembly. Previously, these districts were represented by 10 seats, but this number has now been reduced to 4.

The revised constituencies indicate significant changes, with the former NA 40 and NA 41 in Bajaur now combined into the new NA 8. Similarly, one constituency from the Khyber, Kurram, and Orakzai districts has been eliminated from the tribal regions.

Malik Khalid Khan, an independent candidate for PK-19, expressed mixed sentiments about the Election Commission's new constituencies for Bajaur district. On one hand, he noted that these changes have brought an additional provincial constituency for Bajaur, which was seen as a positive development.

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However, he also highlighted a significant concern—despite the population size warranting a National Assembly constituency, Bajaur has been deprived of one. He pointed out the discrepancy where Jhelum, with a population of 1.3 lakh, has two National Assembly constituencies, while Bajaur, with an equivalent population, has only one. He called for an immediate correction in the division of constituencies to address this imbalance.

Nisar Baz, the General Secretary of the Awami National Party in Bajaur, raised concerns about the new constituencies. He criticized the inclusion of certain areas from Tehsil Mamond into Tehsil Salarzai PK 20, deeming it inappropriate. He argued that PK 19 Loi and Wara Mamund, with a combined population of 324,092, should not have detached areas such as Dama Dola, Inam Khoro Chengi, Sisai, and Tanrey, with an estimated population of 34,000. Instead, he suggested reconfiguring the constituencies to combine areas like Niyag, Lara Banda, and Daag, with a population of 19,340, into Circle PK 22 Nawagai Charming, an adjacent area. This would result in a more balanced population distribution of 339,000.

Additionally, Baz criticized the inclusion of Zor Bandar, a remote area of Tehsil Khar, into PK-20 Salarzai and the inappropriate incorporation of areas from Navagai and Barang tehsils into constituency PK-21. He argued that these changes do not align with the ground realities of the region.

Impact of Reduced NA Constituencies

Syed Siddique Akbar Jan, a prominent leader of the Awami National Party and a youth representative, emphasized that the number of National Assembly seats is directly linked to population ratios. By reducing the number of seats, the representation in the National Assembly decreases, resulting in less access to development funds and resources for the entire area. He stressed that alongside the reduction of constituencies, there have been inaccuracies in the distribution of these constituencies.

Akbar Jan stated that they are actively working to persuade the Election Commission to reinstate the National Assembly seat and rectify the distribution of provincial constituencies. He highlighted the inappropriateness of including certain parts of a tehsil in remote constituencies while neglecting nearby areas, which could pose significant challenges in the future.

Amir, a former senator and leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Bajaur, firmly rejected the new constituencies in Bajaur. He argued that these decisions are being imposed on the region without considering the ground realities. According to him, all political parties have serious reservations about the constituencies created by the Election Commission for Bajaur. He called for a comprehensive review of all the new constituencies in Bajaur, with the aim of establishing constituencies that receive unanimous support from political parties.

On the other hand, an Election Commission of Pakistan official in Bajaur, speaking on condition of anonymity, clarified that the reduction of six constituencies in the tribal districts aligns with the constitutional rules following the merger of FATA with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This restructuring has led to the formation of 45 National Assembly constituencies.

Notably, this reduction will not impact women and minority seats in these constituencies. Additionally, he mentioned that Bajaur rightfully gained an additional constituency in the provincial assembly as per the population ratio, which stands at 788,933 for National Assembly constituencies and 338,713 for Provincial Assembly constituencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.