QUETTA: Located in the rugged mountainous area of Balochistan, Jhalawan’s National Assembly (NA)-269 constituency is the heart of tribal politics. Veteran tribal chieftains have remained active in provincial politics from this area for decades.

Jhalawan, comprising one NA-269 seat and three provincial assembly seats – PB-38, PB-39 and PB-40, remained the centre of attraction of all political as well as religious parties, but none of the tribal leaders nor politician succeeded in forming a concrete alliance over there.

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In 2013 elections, National Party (NP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) joint candidate Maulana Qamarur Din succeeded in clinching the NA seat from Jhalawan, after bagging 25,500 votes while in second place was Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s (BNP-M) Abdul Rauf Mengal, who received 25,400 votes and lost the elections by a razor-thin margin.

As soon as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the date for general elections in the country, the poll activities, halted for five years, started gaining momentum.

With 228,547 registered voters, the constituency is among the most sensitive election areas of the country. Besides the number of voters, political influence also holds high value in the area.

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Among 13 candidates contesting the general elections for the NA-269 seat, BNP-M chief Akhtar Jan Mengal has been declared the strongest candidate after his party formed an alliance with JUI-F in Khuzdar.

Jhalawan Awami Panel (JAP), headed by the most notorious warlord Mir Shafiqur Rehman Mengal, has held political gatherings in Sorab, Naal, Wadh, Zaidi and other areas of Khuzdar where he has been receiving tribal support.

Former MPA and NP senior leader Sardar Aslam Bizenjo, BAP’s Muhammad Hassani and BNP-Awami’s Mir Zafarullah Zehri were seen in pictures circulating on social media discussing upcoming elections with Shafiq Mengal, which clearly predicts a new political alliance which could increase the woes of BNP-M and JUI-F in elections.

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In the third position is former chief minister and PML-N President Sanaullah Zehri, who has a strong tribal influence in the area, and is contesting general election for NA-269 seat on PML-N ticket.

Zehri claimed he would get public support and vote due to his performance as the chief minister for two-and-a-half years.

The chief of Zehri tribe is also the strongest candidate for PB-38 Zehri, Kirkh and Mola from where he has already won twice. But his opponents former federal minister and his step-brother Israrullah Zehri and JAP Chairman Shafiq Mengal are also optimistic about their victory.

Election campaigning for PB-39 Khuzdar-Naal, which was the hub of political fights in 2008 and 2013 elections, is also on the rise.

Former MPA from PB-39, NP’s Aslam Bizenjo is expected to face harsh response from the people of Khuzdar as many youngsters in the city have vowed to vote on performance rather than tribal influence.

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BAP candidate and Khuzdar District Chairman Agha Shakeel Durrani, with a cow’s symbol, has initiated political activities in the area and is being predicted as the second strongest candidate.

With 82,000 registered votes, the polling day in Khuzdar for PB-39 seat would be the most crucial as a close election fight is expected to take place.

BNP-M chief Akhtar Mengal is tipped as the favourite for PB-40 seat with political support from MMA and JUI-F. To make it tough for Mengal, the JAP introduced Naimatullah Bizenjo as their candidate for the seat. With his first appearance, Aslam Bizenjo’s son, Sardarzada Shah Meer Bizenjo, is also in the run for the PB-40 seat.

According to political analysts, the real competition for the PB-40 seat would be between Akhtar Mengal and Naimatullah Bizenjo. However, Mengal is said to be the most favourite.

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With pledges to meet all humanitarian needs, the BNP-M chief is curious regarding the involvement of non-political forces in the election as he was of the view that their mandate could be stolen as was in the 2013 general elections.

Wooing the people into voting for him, JAP chief said, “We are electioneering with a vision of a prosperous Pakistan and Balochistan.”

PB-37 Kalat-Manguchar, one of the most politically hottest constituencies of Balochistan, has been gaining a lot of public attention since the elections date (July 25) was announced.

BAP candidate Mir Zia Langove, JUI-F’s Sardar Saeed Langove, Naeem Dehwar from BNP-M, and Agha Irfan Kareem have been contesting elections for PB-37 seat, but the election fight will take place between Zia Langove and Sardar Saeed Langove.

The NA-268 Kalat-Mastung-Shaheed Sikandarabad has been JUI-F’s stronghold. For the 2018 general elections, MMA and JUI-F’s joint candidate Agha Mehmood Shah is the favourite, but NP’s Nawab Shahwani and BNP-M’s Manvoor Baloch are vying for the slot.

With fraught promises of development, peace and prosperity, the election candidates have commenced their political machination, public rallies and gatherings across the province. Only time will tell whether they really deliver on their promises.