Four of six candidates from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were elected as members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council after voting was held through a “show of hands” on Monday. Islami Tehreek Pakistan’s (ITP) Agha Syed Abbas Rizvi was also elected along with an independent candidate from Diamer, Syed Afzal.
Polling was held at the G-B Legislative Assembly Hall in Gilgit under the supervision of the region’s election commission. All 33 members of the G-B Assembly voted in the presence of the media.
Those PML-N members who won their berths on the council included Ashraf Sada, Wazir Ikhlaq, Sultan Ali Khan and Arman Shah. Afzal, who contested the election as an independent, also received a vote each from PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party. He is likely to join the latter after taking oath. G-B Assembly opposition leader Shah Baig, a senior JUI-F leader, also voted in favour of ITP’s Rizvi, helping him win.
Amended to advantage?
Elections took place after five years. The “show of hands” amendment was inserted in the G-B Empowerment and Self-governance Order 2009 recently.
The council, established in May 2009 under Article 33 of the 2009 order, was represented by six members each from the federal and G-B governments. The G-B Council, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, enjoyed the status of the upper house of the regional parliament. The Centre is currently represented by Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, Khalid Hussain Magsi, Dr Darshan, Syed Iftikharul Hassan, Isphanyar M Bhandara and Tariq Fazal Chudhary.
Open door policy: Surprising voting patterns emerge
The eagerly-anticipated elections for the G-B Council finally took place on Monday with candidates and voters finding few chances to cut quiet deals with the voters. The show of hands amendment had the objective of eliminating the possibility of cutting deals as had been the practice in the past. An amendment was introduced by the PML-N-led G-B government which had the clear majority in the assembly and was therefore more vulnerable to disloyalty.
Days before the polls, G-B Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, who is also the party head in the region, convinced 21 PML-N lawmakers to pass the amendment to the G-B Empowerment and Self-governance Order 2009. As a result, voters were barred from secret balloting.
In spite of the open show on Monday, the election of an independent candidate from Diamer, Syed Afzal, came as a surprise. Afzal, who is known for his skills in cutting deals, got five votes – the minimum requirement to be elected. His voters included Imran Nadeem, Nasreen Banu, Raja Jehanzeb, Nawaz Khan Naji and Kacho Imtiaz.
The vote of Nadeem for Afzal was seen by some as a revolt against his party as part of some deal. Another surprise came when opposition leader Shah Baig voted in favour of ITP’s Agha Syed Abbas Rizvi. The support for rival sects, regardless of how it materialised, was seen as a positive development in a region plagued by sectarian strife in the past.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2016.