The founder of the Balwaristan National Front (BNF), Nawaz Khan Naji, won the by-election in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ghizer constituency, hometown of Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah, on Friday.
“This is the highest turnout – 66 per cent – in Pakistan’s history,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rahim Nawaz Durrani.
According to the CEC, BNF founder Nawaz Khan Naji outvoted his rival candidates of the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), obtaining over 8,299 votes. PML-N candidate Col (retd) Karim Khan bagged 5,043 votes while PPP candidate Engineer Jawahir Ali Khan got 4,526 votes. “We have contested elections in the past but it is our first win in the legislative assembly,” Naji told The Express Tribune, adding that he had formed the BNF in 1989.
Naji said the federal government should declare Gilgit-Baltistan a province of Pakistan, give its people representation in the National Assembly and Senate, and extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to the region. He said nationalism is not a curse, and that his party supports a secular worldview where there is no space for sectarianism. The defeat of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the election has stunned party leaders because they had pumped all resources to secure the seat which they never lost before. The seat was vacated by Pir Karam Ali Shah after he was elevated to the post of governor.
Shah had to face criticism from within the party after the PPP candidate was defeated.
“The reason behind PPP’s debacle is that Pir sahib has been developing his own personality (cult) instead of (popularising) the party,” said Engineer Islamil, a PPP sitting minister who looks after the affairs of local government.
While Chief Minister Mehdi Shah congratulated the winning candidate, he too seemed upset over the defeat. “If ‘certain leaders’ had upheld the party’s cause, the situation would have been different today,” Mehdi Shah said in a press release.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.