QUETTA: Amid extensive security measures, polling for 14 seats of the National Assembly and 51 of Balochistan Assembly was held in the province on Saturday, with the turnout estimated at between 35 and 40 per cent of registered votes.
Except a few incidents of violence — including grenade, rocket and bomb attacks — the polling process remained peaceful across the province.
More than 62,000 security personnel, 7,000 of them from the army, were deployed in Quetta and other sensitive districts. Heavy contingents of army, Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary and police patrolled around polling stations throughout the province.
In Quetta, a large number of voters, including women, went to polling stations to cast their votes. Long queues of voters were seen at polling stations in central areas of the city since morning.
The turnout was encouraging in the city and its outskirts. It was estimated at 30 per cent during the first four hours of polling in central areas of the provincial capital.
“We are having such a huge crowd of voters since morning that polling booths seem insufficient to accommodate them,” a presiding officer in a women’s polling station in Muslimabad told Dawn. During the first four hours of polling, 40 per cent of votes had been cast there, she said.
In the areas dominated by people of Hazara community, reporters found male and female voters casting their votes with enthusiasm.
People in large numbers thronged polling stations even in Sariab Road area, where a low turnout had been expected.
Long queues of voters, including women, were seen at the Polytechnic Institution polling station.
“We are waiting since morning to cast our votes because of limited number of polling booths,” said Abdullah, who had come from Lahore to cast his vote.
According to reports, the turnout was higher in Pakhtun areas than in Baloch areas.
According to observers, 35 to 40 per cent votes were cast in Pakhtun areas where the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and two factions of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam have an impressive vote bank.
The polling started at 8am and continued till 6pm. However, complaints of late polling were received from some areas.
Turnout in Kech, Panjgur, Awaran and some others Baloch areas remained low because of a strike call given by the Baloch National Front, which is opposed to elections.
In the three districts, particularly in Panjgur town, most of government officials assigned polling duties did not report for because of threats issued by banned organisations.
Reports from Panjgur suggested a very low turnout as voters were apprehensive of attacks on polling stations.
Similarly, polling staff failed to reach polling stations in some areas of Kech, Awaran and Washuk districts. But the administration made alternative arrangements to start polling.
In Mand, a town on the border with Iran, polling staff did not arrive at six polling stations till 11am.
The turnout in Makran division, Kharan and Awaran districts was estimated at 20 per cent.
A comparatively higher turnout was reported from Jaffarabad, Nasirabad, Kalat, Khuzdar and Sibi districts.