The Baloch Hal Editorial: The outcome of PB-25 by-polls
The Baloch Hal Editorial: The outcome of PB-25 by-polls
By Malik Siraj Akbar
Sustaining the series of its electoral victories, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has won the by-polls held in PB-25 Jaffarabad. Previously, the younger brother of former Balochistan Education Minister late Shafiq Ahmed Khan of the PPP, Tahir Mehmood, now the provincial education minister, won the elections on the seat which remained vacant after the killing of his brother. This time, Nasir Khan Jamali, a brother of former minister Rustam Khan Jamali, who was gunned down in Karachi in July last year, has also been voted with overwhelming majority in the Balochistan Assembly. This electoral triumph increases the number of seats for the Pakistan People’s Party to 14 in the 65-member Balochistan Assembly. The PPP may take this as an excellent opportunity to boast over its “growing popularity” among the voters in Balochistan.
The runners-up of the by-polls have refused to accept the election results by leveling serious allegations of fraud, rigging and the use of official machinery during the election to get the “officially-sponsored candidate” elected. Attaullah Buledai, an independent candidate backed by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz), has charged that around 150 of his polling agents sent to Ghandawa and different other polling stations were kidnapped. Thus, there were no polling agents of the independent candidate on these polling stations.
Independent reports emanating from the area confirmed that some 70 political activists were injured in violent clashes on the election day. The worst scene was witnessed in Noorpur polling station where one-hour-long violent confrontation took such a dramatic turn that the polling staff and the police deployed there had to flee to seek safety.
Though polling at Noorpur polling station resumed after the District Coordination Officer (DCO), District Police Officer (DPO) and personnel of the Frontier Corp (FC) reached on the spot to control the situation, things further worsened when Attaullah Buledai and 12 other independent candidates announced to boycott the elections. Supporters of different political parties opened fire in the air and started to vandalize public property for around half an hour. The local police and administration failed to take timely action to control the overall situation. The supporters of Attaullah Buledai and the FC personnel scuffled with each other near a local rice mill. Supporters of the PPPP allegedly pelted stones at the car of an independent candidate backed by the PML-N.
Another weak area of the election was dearth of separate polling booths for the female voters who had to wait in long queues to vote. The female agents also had to face serious problems due to continued clashes between the supporters of diverse political parties.
The sole opposition member in the Balochistan Assembly and former federal minister Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind has rejected the results of the by-polls in Jaffarabad by accusing the PPP of resorting to worst electoral rigging. In a statement, Rind said the PPP had always violated the public mandated in the past. For instance, he noted, the PPP did not respect the people’s mandate in Balochistan after the general elections of 2008 when the PML-Quaid-e-Azam gained historic majority. Despite that, the public mandate was not respected by the PPP and the PML-Q was prevented from forming a government.
The reaction from the ruling party merits attention. Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani has, nevertheless, congratulated the winning candidate by saying that the people of Jaffarabad had voted for the policies of the Pakistan People’s Party.
On the other hand, the provincial president of the PPP, Senator Haji Lashkari Raisani, has confessed irregularities in the by-polls. In a rare confession of guilt, Senator Raisani said the victory in PB-25 was a ‘moral defeat’ for the PPP as the polls were predominantly marred with irregularities and favoritism. “ The involvement of the civil bureaucracy and the Frontier Corps (FC) in irregularities during the elections in Jaffarabad is regrettable and has caused a moral defeat for those who have been administratively declared successful,” a news agency quoted the provincial president of the PPP while ventilating his anger over the fraud that took place in Jaffarabad polls.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Balochistan chapter has also confirmed fraud in the by-polls and strongly condemned the use of force to prevent several voters from casting their votes. Regretting the undemocratic practices applied during a civilian government towards the voters, the HRCP said in a statement that many of the election observers were disallowed to observe the elections in spite of possessing authorized election monitoring cards which further validated the opposition candidates’ allegations concerning the use of official apparatus in dictating the outcome of elections.
Denouncing the election of PPP candidate, around ten political parties have announced three-day of mourning in Jaffarabad and a hunger strike camp to protest against what they term as the use of the official machinery for turning the results in favor of the ‘official candidate’. The protesting parties include the “angry faction” of the Pakistan People’s Party, PPP-Shaeed Bhutto faction, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), National Party, Balochistan National Party and different other groups. In addition, Mai Joi, the sole female contender in the elections, has decided to move the Election Commission of Pakistan against the fraudulent outcome of the by-polls.
After the admirably principled statement given by the PPP’s provincial chief, there is modicum of doubt that irregularities did occur during the by-polls. It is in deed depressing that the PPP, a self-proclaimed vanguard of democracy and rule of law, did not discourage the use of official machinery during the sacred democratic exercise. Senator Lashkari is absolutely correct when he bills it as a ‘moral defeat’ for those who were administratively declared as ‘successful’.