QUETTA, Dec 7: Amid tight security, polling for local bodies’ elections was held largely in peaceful manner in Balochistan on Saturday.
Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk visited different polling stations here and expressed satisfaction over the polling process.
Around 18,000 candidates are in the run for 4,600 seats of local bodies, including Quetta Metropolitan Corporation, four municipal corporations, 53 municipal committees and 32 district councils.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, 2,507 candidates have been elected unopposed and 508 seats have remained vacant because no candidate has filed nomination papers for them.
Except a few incidents of violence -- including firing incidents and clashes between rival groups in different areas -- the polling process remained peaceful across the province. Over 30 people were injured in the incidents.
Polling could not be held in Harnai district because some political parties and candidates staged a sit-in against the district returning officer (DRO) and returning officer (RO). The provincial authorities immediately intervened and changed the deputy commissioner and the additional deputy commissioner who had been working as the DRO and the RO.
Polling was suspended in some polling stations in Chaman, Qila Abdullah, Pishin, Mastung, Kalat, Zhob and Nasirabad due to minor clashes between the supporters of political parties.
Women voters faced problems in Gharibabad area on the outskirts of Nushki town as they were stopped for casting their votes. Amid protest by the women voters, local administration intervened and allowed them to cast their votes.
“Some people stopped women from casting their votes but the local administration resolved the issue after negotiation,” Assistant Commissioner Mohammad Younis Sanjrani told Dawn over telephone.
A similar situation was reported from Qila Saifullah where local elders decided not to allow women to cast their votes. However, local administration did not confirm the report and said that a large number of women had cast their votes in the district.
“There is no tradition of barring women from voting in Balochistan,” Home Secretary Asad Gilani said.
In some areas the start of polling was delayed because of non-availability of voter lists and election material and late arrival of polling staff at polling stations.
Over 54,000 personnel of the army, Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary, police and Levies Force were deployed across the province to ensure peaceful polling.
Nine districts had been declared sensitive areas but no major incident of violence took place there, according to official sources. However minor clashes were reported from Qila Abdullah and Kalat.
In Quetta, a large number of male and female voters were seen going to polling stations since morning. “Long queues of voters were present at male and female polling stations in different parts of the city and on its outskirts,” an official said.
Voter turnout was encouraging in Quetta and its suburbs. According to an estimate, around 35 per cent votes were polled in the first four hours in central areas of the city. Official sources said that overall turnout stood at 45 per cent in Quetta district.
“Since morning we are facing a huge crowd of voters,” the presiding officer of a women’s polling station in Nawan Killi said, adding that 30 to 35 percent votes were cast in the first four hours.
In the city areas dominated by Hazara community, media teams found male and female voters casting their votes in an enthusiastic way. Even in the suburbs of Quetta, including Sariab area, people were found casting vote in large numbers.
A better turnout was witnessed in some Baloch areas where it looked dismal in May 11 general elections. However, the turnout was better in Pakhtun areas than those populated by Baloch people.
According to sources in the provincial home department, the turnout stood at 70 per cent in Mastung, Nushki (65 per cent) Pishin (55 per cent) Jhal Magsi (50 per cent) Nasirabad, Kohlu, Qila Abdullah, Sibi and Kuchhi (45 per cent) Jaffarabad, Qila Saifullah, Dera Bugti, Musakhel and Shirani (40 per cent) and Barkhan (35 per cent).
But in Gwadar and Panjgur, the turnout was estimated at 15 and 20 per cent, respectively.
The turnout remained low also in Awaran, Washuk, Kharan and some other areas. In Awaran, 30 candidates have filed nomination papers for 121 seats and 24 of them have returned unopposed.