Displaced Bugti men fear missing out on vote

Demand either immediate repatriation or delay of polls in their constituencies.


Photo: Adeel Ahmed/z Ali March 29, 2013
Bugti tribesmen protest for their rights in Hyderabad. PHOTO: ADEEL AHMED (SINDH EXPRESS)

HYDERABAD:


When Ghulam Nabi Mandani Bugti was forced to take refuge in Hyderabad, he thought it would be temporary and he would soon be on his way back to Dera Bugti.


Seven years on, he remains in Sindh, doing menial labour jobs to make ends meet.

As the chances of his returning home get slimmer, his ‘displaced’ status means he may not be able to cast a vote in the upcoming polls either.

Thousands like him, who were displaced following the military operation in Dera Bugti in 2005 and 2006, are scattered around Sindh. A majority of the IDPs live in Jamshoro, Sanghar and Khairpur districts.

According to the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), the number of Bugtis evicted from their land is around 140,000.

While their rehabilitation seems unlikely at this stage, the IDPs fear they may not be able to exercise their right to vote. “A small group of army-supported Bugtis will elect a yes-man to pretend that Bugtis have participated in the election which will not be true,” said Haji Mir Aali Rana Zai Bugti who was among a group of people who held a protest on Thursday calling for their immediate rehabilitation.

Hundreds of Bugti tribesmen also took to the streets on Thursday in several districts of Sindh demanding the arrest and trial of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in the murder case of Akbar Bugti.

According to one Rana Zai Bugti, there are around 6,000 Bugtis living in Jamshoro district where they are mostly engaged in stone crushing jobs. However, some 400 to 500 are registered to vote in Jamshoro.

The Khathar area in Hyderabad is also home to about 3,000 Bugti tribesmen. But a representative of the community, Shah Nawaz Bugti, claims less than 10% of them have their vote registered on a temporary address in Hyderabad.

The tribesmen say that either they should be repatriated or polls be postponed in their constituency. “Due to the military operation, the law and order situation is very poor in Dera Bugti,” JWP Information Secretary Darya Khan Bugti told The Express Tribune. “When half the area’s population is living like a refugee in their own country, how can the elections be fair?” he said.

Regional election commissioner Attaur Rehman told The Express Tribune that election rules do not allow for any special arrangement to be made for the Bugti tribesmen to vote.

“It is not part of election practices to set up polling stations in different parts of the country for any specific constituency. Neither is there a provision allowing them to cast their votes through the post like the government servants.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2013.

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