By Kiyya Qadir Baloch
ISLAMABAD: Nationalists’ threat of violence during elections in Balochistan kept many voters away from the polls, leading to the lowest turnout in any election since insurgency broke out in the province.
Though the Election Commission of Pakistan has said that the election turnout was more than 50%; however, local Baloch activists on social media reported a very smaller turnout of around 3% only. Political observers believe a direct threat from the insurgents and calls of wheel-jam strike from nationalists parties like Balochistan National Front, Baloch Republican Party in the Baloch-dominant areas curtailed public rallies before the polls and produced very low turnout in the province on the election day.
However, many of them believe that the state of hopelessness and negative feelings towards federation among Baloch led them to stay away from the polling booths. Regardless of the different turnout figures reported by the Election Commission of Pakistan and civil organisations, at least half of the voters in the whole province did not cast their ballots, Daily Times has learnt. Local election experts and journalists from the province said that security threats were probably a decisive factor affecting the participation of the largest number of Baloch voters.
“Definitely voter turnout in Baloch-dominant areas was very low but rather equal to 00.5% only, people do not vote as they are disappointed with the federation because they think voting is like making establishment more strong which they consider the main stakeholder for exploiting their natural resources,” Said Assad Baloch; a senior journalist and political expert from Balochistan.
“People might be scared but they are more disappointed and we have to convince them to come out of their houses to vote,” Aleem Baloch; ex-chairman Baloch Students Organisation said, adding that a little number of people were seen on some polling stations as the day wore on but there was little enthusiasm. Social media reports said that elections were not held in many areas of districts Kech, Khuzdar, Pajnjgur, Awaran, Kharan and Kalat, but surprisingly candidate from these constituencies won their seats with wide margins.
Shoaib Shadab, an international political observer who teaches at the International Islamic University Islamabad, when asked about the low turnout in the province said that Balochistan was not well prepared for the election. He pointed out the bad law and order situation, issue of missing persons, continuing kill and dump policy, saying that these affect the results of the elections and present a challenge to the elected candidates.
At the same time Balochistan National Party-Mengal complained that the ballot boxes reached late at many polling stations and many were badly damaged and burnt as a result of violence that erupted between security forces and Baloch separatists.
Sana Baloch of BNP Mengal termed the election useless and said that “awful election arrangements were done – a police constable was deputed as a presiding officer in Kharran”. She said that historic rigging was done in Balochistan. Akhtar Hussain Langov of BNP Mengal called on Sunday for a thorough and transparent investigation of complaints about fraud in the election.
Courtesy: Daily Times