Independent candidates were leading the race in first-ever elections for 16 seats of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in the merged tribal districts, according to unofficial and unverified results received till filing of this report.According to the preliminary results, independent candidates were leading in nine out of 16 constituencies, followed by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which was ahead in four constituencies. Candidates of Jamiat Ulem-a-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and Awami National Party (ANP) were leading in one constituency each. Spokesperson of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Nadeem Qasim said it may take a day for the official results to be announced. He said there are issues of mobile and internet services in some areas of merged districts while in others, movement is not possible during the night. He said polling agents of each party are there at each of the polling stations and Form 45 will be handed to them. He said results will be compiled after Form 45 reaches the returning officers.Voters in the former tribal zones went to the polls on Saturday in the first provincial elections. The former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a mountainous cluster of seven districts and six towns along the Afghan border, were merged into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last May. Polling opened at 8am amid tight security and continued until 5pm without any breaks. According to reports from the area, voter turnout remained decent. The voters present inside the polling stations were allowed to cast their votes even beyond the 5pm deadline as some 2.8 million residents of the merged tribal districts exercised their right to franchise.The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set up 1,897 polling stations across the region, previously called FATA. Of them, 554 were declared highly sensitive and 461 sensitive. People in many districts had started lining up outside polling stations early in the morning, with reports suggesting that the polling process started between 8:00am and 8:30am in all districts. “It is a historic day,” said Ajmal Wazir, the government’s adviser on the tribal areas. “The polling process has ended smoothly,” he said.The elections will see 16 seats contested by 285 candidates from all the main national parties as well as independents. Tens of thousands of troops and special police units have been sent to the province for polling day.In the past two decades, the region became known as a haven for militant groups operating on both sides of the border with Afghanistan and tens of thousands died during a years-long campaign by Pakistan Army to crush the terrorists. Pakistan Army spent years fighting the Taliban and other groups in the region, and the military says now its focus has shifted from active combat operations to consolidating government administration in the region.