Compared to other parts of the country, the provincial capital of Balochistan seems quite dull in terms of electoral activities, as no election campaigns are being seen, which speaks volumes for the people’s lack of interest in the upcoming general elections in this restive province. All that can be seen is a pictorial depiction of election enthusiasm – flags, banners and posters at most.
Low voter turnout expected
Fear rules all parts of Balochistan, with Frontier Corps personnel posted at every 10 miles on the main highway linking Karachi with Quetta.
Streets are deserted during peak election campaign times in the evening and early hours of the night and people prefer to stay indoors, observing political scene on their television sets rather than going and actively supporting the leaders they want in power.
During the last general elections, there was lowest turnout in Quetta as nationalists boycotted the elections. This time, law and order will keep voters away from polling stations as parties and leaders are told they may be killed by insurgents if they tried to hold election rallies, corner meetings or public meetings by the major and populist parties in Quetta and elsewhere.
Sardar Akhtar Mengal the president of Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), has repeatedly expressed his concern about the deteriorating political situation and threats faced by voters during the elections, especially in the constituencies of Khuzdar and Quetta.
The recent visit of PML-N leader and former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and his meeting with Sardar Mengal to discuss the political situation of Balochistan and to discuss seat adjustments was undoubtedly a positive sign.
A similar visit by Jamaat-Islami (JI) Amir Syed Munawar Hassan who met leaders of different political parties gave a little pace the low breathing political campaigns here.
Old faces onboard nationalist parties?
“It is a positive sign that the nationalist parties intend to contest the upcoming elections, but the former members of the assembly are re-joining nationalist parties which is why we don’t see any positive change for Balochistan in the next tenure,” said Zafarullah Mengal, a student of University of Balochistan. In his opinion, the former PPP regime did nothing for Balochistan. “We haven’t seen any development anywhere other in Quetta,” said Zafar.
However, Jamil Ahmed, who works is a private firm, is “very optimistic that if the nationalist parties would come in power, they can restore peace in our province,” said Jamil.
Democracy – yes or no
Many like Ghulam Murtaza, a shopkeeper, feel that the PPP’s performance during the last five years in the name of democracy has been dismal and that “instead of such a democracy, dictatorship is better for Pakistan.”
Yet, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) said, “We want a democratic Pakistan and our rights should be given to us. The only way to purge Pakistan of the crises is the conduct of free and transparent elections.” Achakzai has already called for the end of the military and agencies interferences in politics.
Mehmood Khan Achakzai: leader of PkMAP, supported by PML-N. He boycotted the 2008 polls despite his heavy say in matters.
Maqbool Ahmed Lehri (PPPP): Has been nazim in Quetta and has worked for the city’s development; such he enjoys support among locals.
Hafiz Hamdullah (JUI-F): He was health minister and previously has been a provincial minister. Hamdullah enjoys support of a sizable section of the vote bank
Haji Manzoor Ahmed Mengal (JUI-F): Vote in the name of religion is expected to come to this candidate.
Sardar Umer Gurgaej (PPPP): Former MNA from the same seat in the previous tenure, he is seen as a prime candidate despite PPP’s lack-lustre performance.
Yousaf Notezai (NP): As a nationalist, he gets an edge, especially because NP’s campaign has been most active this time.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2013.