The unjust NA-260 by-poll does not bode well for next year’s elections in Balochistan

A by-election of the National Assembly constituency NA-260 was recently held in Balochistan. The polling took place on Saturday, 15th July, after the death of Abdul Rahim Mandokhail (PkMAP) left the seat vacant.

More than a dozen candidates contested in the by-poll. Among them were Bahadur Khan Mengal of Balochistan National Party (BNP-M), Engineer Usman Badini of JamiatUlema-e Islam JUI (F), Jamal Tarakai of Pakhtunkhwa Mill Awami Party (PkMAP), and Umair Muhammad Hassani of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). But the real contest for NA-260 was between BNP-M and JUI (F).

The Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI-F) won the Quetta-cum-Chagai by-elections, according to unofficial results. In a total of 407 polling stations, the JUI-F candidate Mir Usman Badini secured 43,969 votes while BNP-M candidate Bahadur Khan Mengal came in second, with 37,786 votes. Jamal Tarakai from Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PkMAP) received the third highest, 20,179 votes.

NA-260 is one of the most ethnically diverse constituencies. It comprises Chagai, Nushki, and one third of Quetta district, stretching from Kuchlak to Taftan. In the by-election, it was given undue importance and played the role of a warm up match among political parties en route the general election next year.

It was a great let-down that the by-electionof NA-260 Balochistan did not receive adequate media coverage. While a tough competition took place in the constituency, mainstream media slept like a log. Our media will go to United States of America to cover an election, but not a hyped by-election in Balochistan.

BNP-Mengal had been considered favorite in this by-election and came out as a strong opposition and popular party in the province. The publichas pinned its hopes on BNP-Mengal’s leadership due to its clear-cut policiesabout their issues.

The Awami National Party (ANP), Hazara Democratic Party, BNP (Awami) and Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch’s party (BNM) supported BNP-Mengal in the NA-260 by-poll. In one of his tweets,famousjournalist Hamid Mir says, “Vote for ideology not for race and language. Good to know that ANP, BNP, and Hazara Democratic Party supporting one candidate”.

Instead of appointing their own candidate, BNP’s arch rival, National Party (NP), supported JUI-F. This unnatural alliance with JUI (F) in the by-elections made the people question the motives of National Party.

JUI-F, a right wing political party, cannot side with the slogans that have been raised by NP’s leaders for decades. In the 1970s era, the present leaders of National Party were a part of communist politics and mullahism was far from their political manifesto. It has been almost 14 years since they formed a new party (National Party), under which they have been campaigning in the name of leftist politics. This surprising alliance with a right wing party seems fishy.

Many people, within and without the party, aren’t happy with the double standard inits politics. The ideological workers of National Party are disappointed in the decision taken by its leadership without taking them into confidence. They believe that this decision about its alliance with JUI will politically take National Party nowhere. It seemsthey aretaking an axe atthemselves.

Meanwhile,the workers of NP, like dumb-driven cattle, are blindly following every misstep of their leaders. It is deemed political suicide of NP and the last nail inits coffin. The already declined popularity of National Party due to nepotism and corruptionhas worsened after supporting a right wing religious party.

JUI and Ahl-e Sunnat are believed to be promoting similar ideologies of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that aim to suppress the minority groups in the province. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been involved in the mass killings of Hazara community and the Police Training Academy in Quetta last year. In the early 1990s, JUI’s hard core Mullahs directly targeted a minority, Zikri community based in Turbat. At behests of JUI, hundreds of people from Zikri community were tortured and killed, and still they are vulnerable at the hands of religious fanatics who are said to be backed by JUI.

It was also observed that JUI’s candidate and his workers used religious cards to sway people for votes during the pre-poll campaign. They allegedly used mosques and loudspeakers to beg votes in the name of religion while posters of the JUI candidate were seen on top of the minarets. The Ex-Senator Sana Baloch of Balochistan National Party (Mengal) says, “Money and mosque factor was the biggest hurdle in the NA-260 by- poll. Election commission of Pakistan must take notice and enforce its writ to discourage such voter corruption practices “.

BNP-M President Sardar Akhtar Mengal has accused the government and FC personnel of preventing voters of his party from casting votes. He alleged that in BNP-M stronghold of Sariyab Road, people were restrained from their votes by FCpersonnel.

Akhtar Mengal said that BNP-Mengal is a political, democratic party and doesn’t believe in non-democratic tactics. He added that if it had been decided to get the government supported candidate elected, therewas no need of getting people to stand in scorching heat to cast their votes.

Public mandates have rarely been given any respect in the province. To elect a representative on the government’s choice instead of respecting the public’s votes, will ruin the trust people on a so-called democratic process. In the case of Balochistan, elections are always predominated by the government. If this continues so, it may stymie the public’s interest to participate in the election.

Free, fair and transparent electionsare the only solution to the long lasting problems of the province, as it gives room to the genuine representatives of people.

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