Elections Over; But Where Are the Balochistan Results?
The Election Commission of Pakistan (E.C.P.) has not released the official results of Saturday’s elections nearly 24 hours after the counting of the votes began. The delay in the release of the official results is eventually causing panic among some political parties that are now complaining about alleged rigging and mismanagement of the polls. The Balochistan National Party (B.N.P) of Akhtar Mengal is the most vocal critic of the election outcome. The B.N.P. is protesting for a number of reasons.
For instance, Mr. Mengal has said that the E.C.P. is deliberately not announcing the results of the constituencies where his party candidates had actually won the race. The former chief minister believes that the delay in the announcement of the results will grant his rivals and the pro-establishment candidates an opportunity to manipulate the results. Mr. Mengal has blamed the Establishment and the State for manipulating the polls against his party. He has specifically highlighted the situation in his native Khuzdar district where he says former Member of the National Assembly (M.N.A.) Rauf Mengal had received 22,000 votes and was doing better than other candidates for the N.A. seat but the results have been held. Similarly, Mr. Mengal says the results for the N.A. seats in Turbat-Gwadar and Chagi and Quetta have also been unnecessarily delayed.
“This is a clear attempt to prevent us from becoming a part of the democratic process,” complained Mr. Mengal who attracted tremendous criticism from hardliner Baloch groups over his decision to participate in this year’s elections. “We contested elections,” Mr. Mengal reminded,” only to prove the civil society wrong that we did not believe in democracy or were not capable of winning elections.”
The B.N.P. has also rejected the results of P.B. 4 and 5 in Quetta asking the E.C.P. to reorganize elections on these seats. At a press conference in Quetta, B.N.P. leaders and contestants Sajid Tareen, Akhtar Hussain Langov and Ahmad Nawaz have threatened to file a writ petition at the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the outcome of the elections. They said they had pointed out irregularities even during the polling process but the authorities did not pay attention to their complaints.
The B.N.P. clearly seems very frustrated with the outcome of the results. It has not performed as well as other Baloch and Pashtun nationalists such as the National Party and the Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party. The B.N.P., before joining the election race, admitted that the situation was not absolutely conducive to run for public office but they still decided to participate in the elections as a strategy.
The B.N.P. allegations are very serious. The E.C.P. should look into these charges and make every effort to ensure the immediate release of the polling results. The more the results are delayed, the more they generate suspicion in people’s minds. Irregularities, if ever substantiated, will badly tarnish the credibility of the future government in Balochistan. The B.N.P. is an important political player in Balochistan irrespective of the fact how many seats it has managed to win the polls. Denying B.N.P. a level playing field will backfire. Broadly speaking, even the B.N.P-Awami, generally considered as a pro-establishment party, has also complained about rigging. Former Agriculture Minister and B.N.P.-Awami’s secretary general Asad Baloch has objected to the election results in his native Panjgur where National Party candidates are reported to have won two seats for the provincial assembly.
The government’s primary responsibility is to come clean and disprove Mengal’s allegations regarding fraud and irregularities during the elections. If it fails to do so, these election results could open another chapter of Baloch discontent. The E.C.P. should do whatever it takes to prove that the elections were not engineered and the government had no favorites.
Originally published in The Baloch Hal on May 12, 2013