How The Mandate Of North Waziristan's People Was Stolen In The 2024 Elections

In the first stage of the plan, an attempt was made to eliminate me physically: on January 3, I became the target of a well-planned assassination attempt, but miraculously escaped death

How The Mandate Of North Waziristan's People Was Stolen In The 2024 Elections

The general elections on February 8 this year were arguably among the most blatantly rigged elections in the country’s history. The extent and squalor of the electoral corruption that occurred might not have been as surprising to many if they had listened to what we were passionately proclaiming from the margins.

Two days before the election, I recorded a video message outlining my concerns about what I and my party workers had experienced and witnessed in the run-up to the elections in my constituency, North Waziristan. In this article, I wish to narrate the multi-stage plan that was conceived and carried out to ensure my defeat and impose a controlled figure on North Waziristan as its representative in the National Assembly.

This is the story of how it unfolded.

In the first stage of the plan, an attempt was made to eliminate me physically. On 3 January, I became the target of a well-planned assassination attack and miraculously escaped death in Tapi, a village in North Waziristan. In the aftermath of the attack, the state opted for utter silence, and no action was taken against the perpetrators of the attack.

During the third stage of the plan to ensure the victory of my opponents, government employees who are also the frontline workers of their parties were appointed as presiding officers

Since I survived the attack, the next stage witnessed the doctoring of the electoral scheme. On the insistence of the favoured candidate and with the sanction of the unaccountable masterminds, the electoral scheme was altered so that the boundaries of the areas where I commanded a comfortable lead were distorted in a way to diminish my winning margin. Another tactic was to curtail voter turnout. One time-tested way to achieve that was to declare primary schools – hardly comprising two rooms – as combined polling stations for both male and female voters in the more densely populated areas of North Waziristan. Since North Waziristan’s society is organised around tribal structures and norms that emphasise ‘purdah,’ the female voter turnout would drastically fall as many would shy away from voting in combined polling stations. This tactic was employed in the 2018 general election as well, reducing female voter turnout to a measly 10%, a fraction of the total female voter population. In a letter dated January 18, 2024, I cautioned the Chief Election Commissioner about the impact of combined polling stations on female voter turnout. I never received a response from him, and no action was taken to address my protest; consequently, the combined polling stations remained in place.

During the third stage of the plan to ensure the victory of my opponents, government employees who are also the frontline workers of their parties were appointed as presiding officers in regions where I held a significant advantage in terms of votes.

Lastly, in case all these pre-election attempts at rigging failed, the plan was to hijack a few key polling stations and rig the elections to ensure my defeat. And even if that failed, the plan was to tinker with Form 45 and I was the only one who predicted the Form 45 tempering fraud two days before the election. which I also voiced in my video message. Nobody took our warnings seriously at the time. Yet, two days later, the “Form 45” frenzy swept the nation as old and young questioned how elections were conducted and results were announced.

In my video message, I also emphasised that due to the security forces’ direct control over administrative affairs concerning elections in tribal areas, any election rigging would be considered as officially sanctioned by the country’s security establishment. Additionally, prior to the elections, I was notified that a decision had been made at the highest levels of the establishment to guarantee my defeat.

Given my staunch anti-Taliban, and anti-establishment stance, which I had resolutely stuck to during my stint as a parliamentarian, I was repeatedly cautioned by my friends and family about the dangers to my life even before the election campaign had commenced. They were concerned that the election campaign would provide the easiest opportunity for my detractors to eliminate me. Just as they had feared, I was attacked at the beginning of my campaign. Even after the attack on January 3, I continued to receive reports from different official and unofficial sources that my life was under severe threat.

It was under these circumstances that I had to run my election campaign. It did not deter us from challenging the ideology of the Taliban while campaigning in their stronghold.

As we all had expected and could see coming, on the fateful day of the election, every attempt was made to keep me from securing victory. Our female polling agents were attacked in Tapi on the morning of the election day. They were brought back from the polling stations in a state of unconsciousness. The mandate of the people of North Waziristan was rigged in broad daylight in many other locations too. However, our workers went to every extent to resist such brazen denials of their people’s fundamental democratic rights.

In my constituency, the election result was withheld for two days after the polling time had elapsed. Polling staff in some of the areas were taken to the nearest Army/FC forts and they were forced to sign blank form 45. On the night of the 10th of February, the counting process stopped as no more results were coming and we were told that the counting of votes would resume at 10 am the next day. When we reached the DC compound the next morning, it was sealed, and we were stopped from entering the premises. Meanwhile, the results for the provincial seats, PK 103 and PK 104, were announced even before some of the polling staff had reached the venue for the vote count, while the polling staff were still bringing in the results from various polling stations. We have video evidence of this. When we decided to protest against this irrefutable evidence of rigging, we were attacked by the security forces. I lost four comrades to direct fire from the security forces outside Miranshah Cantt. I was also badly wounded by a gunshot.

We see this vulgar act of rigging as an attempt to weaken the people’s trust in the promise of the ballot to bring about change and deliberately push them towards the bullet. The shocking truth is that the military does not even care about the consequences or the disrepute that these actions would bring. The impudence with which intelligence agencies rigged the elections and used every tool in their toolkit, including openly extorting money from the people, gave a sense that, perhaps, if this would be the last election in the country.

Their actions have massively dented the trust of political workers in the electoral process, and it has become an insurmountable challenge for politicians like myself to restore their faith in the claim that their political activity matters. Those who have benefited from this rigged election may have acquired power for now. But their manufactured victory will only be a momentary relief for them. Soon they too will be on the receiving end, exactly where we stand today. When that happens, it will be equally difficult for them to convince their voters that political activity can change their fate for the better. As political workers, and eventually society, lose faith in the electoral process, the ensuing chaos will increase the pull of those alternative powers that orchestrate chaos to damage democracy and to achieve other strategic interests.

The chaos orchestrated this time could also be a part of the grand design to use our region in the ongoing proxy war between the US and China. The burden of becoming a part of this war will be unbearable and can end in a unprecedented collapse. It is within this context and the current situation in the region that the security establishment wanted to silence North Waziristan completely so that they cannot be called out for their actions in our area and so that the proxy war can be implemented in our region.

The author is chairman of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) and a former MNA