Islamabad: The first-ever provincial elections began Saturday in Pakistan’s erstwhile semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan that was once a stronghold of various militant groups like the Taliban and the al-Qaida. Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) comprising seven districts was merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in May 2018 after a constitutional amendment. The law set aside 24 seats in the KP assembly for the former FATA region. However, due to administrative reasons elections on those seats were not held with the general polls held in July in the country last year. Also Read – US blacklists 28 Chinese entities over abuses in XinjiangAccording to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), polling began at 8:00 a.m. local time in all the seven tribal districts amid heightened security. As many as 34,497 security personnel have been deployed in the polling booths. As many as 285 candidates, including two women, are contesting for 16 seats. Another four seats are reserved for women and one for non-Muslim. These seats will be awarded to the political parties on the basis of their share in the 16 contested seats. The ECP said 2.80 million voters — 1.67 millions of whom are men and 1.13 million women — will exercise their franchise in 1,897 polling stations. The parties which fielded their candidates in the election include Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP).