Balochistan took the pole position in holding local government (LG) elections on Saturday. Defying all threats and fears, people turned out in large numbers to exercise their right to vote in 3,500 of the total 4,168 constituencies. And according to unofficial results, independent candidates won the largest number of seats followed by component parties in the ruling coalition in the province.
By and large, the electoral process was peaceful and the turnout was over 40%. The participation of people in Quetta and northern districts of the province, where ethnic Pashtuns are in majority, was unprecedented.
Conversely, the turnout in the Baloch-dominated areas, including Khuzdar, Kalat, Gwadar, Kech, Panjgur, Washuk, Chagai, Naushki, Dera Bugti and Kohlu was low. The low turnout was partly attributed to a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike called by Baloch separatist groups.
The provincial election commissioner, Sultan Bayazeed, claimed the election was 99% successful. Barring some complaints, the elections were held in a free, fair and transparent manner, he added. Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch claimed some of the credit for holding LG polls in a peaceful manner, while acknowledging the role of the security agencies and the voters at large.
Of the total 1,680 seats of metropolitan corporation, municipal corporations, municipal committees and district councils, unofficial results of nearly 1,000 constituencies were announced at the end of the polling. The unofficial results showed that the biggest share of the pie went to independent candidates who clinched nearly 500 seats.
The National Party (NP), to which Chief Minister Dr Malik belongs, won 130 seats, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 102, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) 72 and Pashtunkhaw Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), 69 seats. Around 113 seats went to other political parties, including Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), JUI-Ideology, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) and Awami National Party (ANP).
Officially, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will notify the winners on December 10 while re-election will take place within 30 days in over 600 constituencies where elections were not held.
In the provincial capital, the PkMAP took the lead by bagging 19 out of the total 57 seats of the Metropolitan Corporation Quetta followed by the PML-N with 13 seats. Similarly, independent candidates clinched 14 seats, followed by the HDP and NP with four each, BNP-M with three, and JUI-F and JUI-I two each. “The Quetta mayor is likely to be elected from the PkMAP,” the party’s spokesperson, Usman Kakar, said while talking to The Express Tribune.
Most of the ruling NP candidates were elected in rural Balochistan, including Kech, Mastung, Kalat, Awaran and Khuzdar districts. The 10-party electoral alliance comprising BNP-M, JUI-F, ANP, JUI-I, HDP and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) could not secure enough seats in the south and southwest of the province.
Overall, the NP won 49 seats in municipal corporations, followed by the JUI-F with 12 seats, BNP-M, 11, PkMAP eight and independents six.
In municipal committees, 301 independent candidates were unofficially declared winner, followed by the PML-N with 52 seats, NP, 51, JUI-F, 52, and PkMAP with 50 seats, while 54 constituencies were claimed by the 10-party alliance.
In district councils, independent candidates won 151 seats, followed by PML-N with 52 seats, NP, 48, JUI-F, 35, PkMAP, 30, BNP-M, 10 and 45 seats went to local parties.
Provincial Election Commissioner Sultan Bayazeed admitted that he did receive some complaints about missing symbols and flaws in the electoral lists. “The ECP printed more ballet papers on Friday night and sent more materials to the staff. There were complaints at some polling stations but overall everything went well,” he added.
Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch said his government and its coalition partners deserved the credit for holding ‘timely’ LG elections in a transparent and peaceful environment.
Talking to reporters at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, he said that by conducting the polls, his government had proved that it was committed to transferring power to the grass roots. “Balochistan is the first province to hold LG elections… I must give credit to the people who took part in the electoral process,” Dr Malik said.
“I must also give credit to police and security forces for maintaining peace during the election process. Law and order has significantly improved [in Balochistan], as was evident from the peaceful conduct of the LG polls,” he added.
Dr Malik admitted, however, that the security situation in his home district of Kech was still alarming. “The government is still facing serious problems in Kech, Awaran and Tump due to the worsening law and order,” he said. Eleven councillors belonging to his party have been kidnapped in Kech district.
Dr Malik stressed that strengthening democracy was the best way to restoring peace in Balochistan, and the LG elections would help restore normalcy in the volatile province.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2013.