Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas hold first local polls

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) – Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas are holding their first-ever provincial elections, in a region along the Afghan border that was once a stronghold for the Taleban, al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

The seven tribal districts were merged last year into the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Before that, the tribal areas were federally administered, and residents could only vote in the national assembly.

Sohail Khan, a spokesman for the provincial election body, said 285 candidates, including two women, are running for 16 seats.

Some 2.8 million voters are registered for Saturday’s elections, which opened at 8am local time amid heightened security.

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