QUETTA: Polling for Balochistan’s local government elections drew to a close at 5 pm, with counting underway at the polling stations.
The provincial government had declared Saturday as a public holiday and made extensive security arrangements. Heavy contingents of law enforcement personnel were deployed at the polling stations and across the city to quickly respond to any untoward incident. Under Section 144, pillion riding has been banned in the province until Dec 10.
According to television reports, women were stopped from casting votes in Naushki district but their voting was later resumed after intervention from the district administration.
In some of the province’s most troubled regions, polling began with a delay due to missing election material at polling stations, with voters waiting in line for hours.
In Khuzdar’s Baghbana tehsil, polling was stopped following a clash between two groups. Four people were reported to be injured in another clash in Hub. Apart from these incidents, a shutter-down and wheel jam strike was being observed in parts of the province on the call of Baloch separatist groups.
15:07 — Six people were injured in a clash at a polling station in Khuzdar. Those injured include a candidate from BNP-Awami.
15:01 — A local leader of the BNP-Mengal was injured during a clash in Panjgur.
14:15 — BNP Mengal has boycotted the election process on different polling stations in the Panjgur region of Balochistan. The party has reservations that rigging may take place in the area but is yet to withdraw its candidates.
13: 57 — All candidates in Turbat and the quake-affected district of Awaran were elected unopposed. Also, political parties have put their heads together to avoid electioneering in regions where the nationalist sentiment runs high.
13:50 — Deputy commissioner of Gazegi, a region which falls in the province's Mastung district, has ordered the cancellation of polling there because election symbols were not published on ballot papers. More reports of empty ballot papers were received from different parts of Balochistan including Mach, Naushki, Naseerabad and Panjgur.
13:20 — Polling stations in Kech and Turbat were reportedly deserted and voting could not commence there.
13:11 — Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Nasirul Mulk expressed his satisfaction over the arrangements made for LG elections in Balochistan, adding that no reports had been received regarding any untoward incidents.
13:10 — 18 candidates were elected unopposed for the Wadh municipal committee.
12:45 — Majority of the polling stations in Jaffarabad's Dera Allah Yar area are still closed. Meanwhile, there are some areas in the Jaffarabad district where polling is underway. However, numerous complaints have been received regarding polling staff delays.
12:20 — A shutter-down and wheel-jam strike was being observed in different parts of Makran, central and eastern Balochistan on the call of Baloch separatists groups. Baloch Republican Party and Baloch National Movement gave the call and asked the Baloch masses to stay away from polling stations.
12:15 — Polling was stopped at Baghbana Tehsil of the Khuzdar district when two groups clashed with each other. Four people were injured when two groups clashed in Balochistan's industrial town of Hub.
12:01 — Media reports on women being barred from voting in Naushki prompted the district administration to intervene into the matter. Assistant Commissioner Naushki, Muhammad Younas Sanjrani, reached women polling stations to ensure vote casting. Sanjrani told Dawn.com that polling was underway and women were allowed to cast their votes. "We have negotiated with tribesmen and now women are allowed to cast their votes", he said.
11:41 — A shutter-down strike is being observed in Lasbela on a call given by nationalist parties.
11:39 — Women in Naushki staged a protest after being barred from casting their votes.
11:07 — According to reports, polling has still not commenced in parts of Dera Murad Jamali, Bolan, Mastung and Qila Abdullah regions of the province due to absence of electoral materials. At a government high school for girls in Mastung, women voters waited for three hours to cast their votes, owing to unavailability of election materials. Munir Ahmed, a levies official, told Dawn.com a large number of women waited for three hours to cast their votes. However, following the deputy commissioner's intervention, the vote casting process started.
11:04 — Female voters have been prevented from casting their votes at Ward number 3 located in Gharibabad area of Nushki district.. Local residents and a Levies official, who requested anonymity, told Dawn.com that women were stopped from casting their votes. "A large number of women are waiting to cast their votes, but some tribesmen have stopped them from doing so," the levies official said.
10:40 — In Balochistan's Harnai district, polling did not start at 82 polling stations since political parties were staging a sit-in against the district administration. "Since morning, nobody has casted their vote," Muhammad Hanif Tareen, a voter and a local journalist, told Dawn.com via telephone. He said for the past 20 hours, political parties were staging a sit-in against the behaviour of deputy commissioner Harnai. "Political parties have serious reservations regarding authenticity of votes," Tareen said. A large number of voters turned to polling stations, but political parties did not allow them to cast their votes.
10:35 — A clash took place between two groups in Qila Abdullah as a result of which five persons sustained injuries and subsequently polling was suspended in Ward number 14.
10:25 — Polling for the local bodies' election was in full swing in the province's Quetta, Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Sibi, Jhal Magsi and Dera Bugti regions. However, polling staff in parts of the province, including in Lasbela district's Uthal and Bela areas, arrived late and hence the process began late.
10:20 — In Harnai, workers of a political party staged a sit-in as polling had not begun there.
Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan had earlier said 18,000 candidates were contesting the elections in 4600 constituencies. Six million ballot papers had been sent to the 32 districts of the province. He also said 33,000 polling staff had been appointed for 5,800 polling stations.
Over 54,000 personnel of the army, Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary, police and Levies Force have been deployed in and around the polling stations and at sensitive points. More than 5,000 army troops are on standby as a quick response force to deal with any untoward situation. Helicopters will be used for surveillance in sensitive areas.