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Pakistan's Restive Pashtun Tribal Region Holds First Local Elections


A man shows his ID card as he waits in line to vote in Pakistan's northwest on July 20.

Polls have closed in Pakistan's first-ever provincial elections in the northwestern tribal areas, a region along the Afghan border that was once controlled by Islamist militant groups.

Results so far indicate that independent candidates have won five of the 16 seats while the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf party has won four. The Islamist political party Jamiat Ulam-e Islam has won two while another Islamist group Jammat-e Islami (JI) and the secular Pashtun ethno-nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) each have won one seat. Election authorities are still counting votes in three constituencies.

Nearly 3 million people are eligible to vote in the provincial assembly elections on July 20, which opened at 8 a.m. local time amid heightened security measures, including the deployment of thousands of policemen and army soldiers in the region.

There was no official announcement on the turnout. But local media showed images of long queues of people waiting for their turns at polling stations.

The seven tribal districts were merged last year into the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Previously, residents could only vote in the national assembly polls.

RFE/RL correspondents report from the region that many women, most of them clad in the traditional burqas, have come out to use their right to vote in this most conservative Pashtun region.

Sohail Khan, a spokesman for the provincial election body, said 285 candidates, including two women -- Naheed Afridi and Malasa Bibi -- were running for 16 seats.

Naheed Afrid was fielded by the secular Awami National Party (ANP), while Malasa Bibi is representing the religious JI party.

Pakistan claims to have cleared the tribal areas of militants in a series of military operations in recent years, but the region still faces occasional attacks.

Election commission spokesman Altaf Khan said army troops had been deployed at all 1,897 polling stations.

With reporting by AP and dpa

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