The impasse over the next phase of local bodies’ elections in Balochistan has come to an end as the ruling National Party (NP) has managed to persuade its coalition partner – Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) – to withdraw its petition for replacing reserved seats of peasants and labourers with social workers and professionals.
Even nine months after the December 7 local body polls, the government has not been able to hold elections for one category, ie, on reserved seats for peasants, labourers and for chairman and vice chairman of district committees and councils.
The Balochistan government had introduced an amendment in the local government law ahead of LB polls and created a new category for social workers and professionals. The new category had replaced the previous category of labourers and peasants in district committees and councils.
Under the same law, it proposed that voting for chairman and vice chairman would take place by show of hands, unlike the previous law which relied on secret balloting.
However, a local leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – also a coalition partner – challenged the amendment bill in Balochistan High Court (BHC), which gave a verdict against the amendment and restored the previous category and option of secret balloting.
Later, the PkMAP approached the Supreme Court against the BHC verdict and as a result the process of concluding the LB polls could not be completed.
“Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has persuaded the leadership of the PkMAP to withdraw the case,” a senior government official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
“The CM also met with the leadership of the PML-N. The issue is resolved now and we are hopeful that the delayed process of LB polls will be concluded within weeks,” he said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Balochistan’s Election Commissioner Sultan Bayazeed said elections were held for general seats and two categories.
“If the issue of peasant and labourers category is addressed, we will soon announce the date of elections of this category which will be followed by the elections of chairman and vice chairman of district committees and councils,” he said, adding that there would be elections on 740 reserved seats.
There are total 7,190 general seats – which comprise five per cent seats for minorities, 33% seats for women and five per cent for labourer and peasant.
The differences between coalition partners – the PkMAP and the PML-N – are visible as both are trying to get maximum share in the LB set-up. Both the parties want their mayor in the provincial capital, Quetta, for which they have been struggling.
The PkMAP’s provincial chief Usman Kakar said his party had decided to withdraw the petition due to the attitude of Supreme Court, which, he said, had not held a single hearing despite the lapse of three months.
“It was our democratic right to amend the law as there is always possibility of corrupt practices in secret ballot voting. We wanted technocrats and social workers’ categories, because we know that they serve better,” he said.
However, after the consensus among the three coalition partners, it seems that the next phase of the LB polls in Balochistan will conclude in few weeks or months.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2014.
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