KARACHI: Activists of the National Party (NP) held a demonstration outside the press club here on Saturday to protest against alleged rigging in by-elections for the PB-50 (Turbat-Kech-III) constituency of Balochistan Assembly.

The by-poll was held on Thursday and the official result is yet to be announced by the Election Commission.

Ramzan Memon, an NP leader, said that according to the initial result, his party’s candidate Akram Dashti had secured 2,608 votes against 2,001 polled by his closest rival Akbar Askani of PML-N.

“But the result was changed the next morning, showing that Mr Askani had bagged 3,000 votes,” Mr Memon said. “We believe that the change has been made because of the ‘administrative pressure’”.

An ECP official, however, said that the unofficial results were based on unconfirmed reports. The commission is yet to announce the result.

Majeed Sajidi, a member of the NP’s central committee, urged the ECP to “maintain impartiality” and “not to fear the threats coming from powerful quarters”.

He said that the NP was considering taking legal action against the rigging. “We’ll go to any length to ensure that our mandate is not jeopardised through rigging,” he added.

Besides Mr Sajidi, members of the NP’s central committee Ayub Qureshi and Tahira Khursheed participated in the demonstration. But the party president Mir Hasil Bizenjo, who is in Karachi these days, was conspicuous by his absence.

Citing reason for Mr Bizenjo’s absence, an NP member said that he was at Qasr-i-Naz (Federal Lodges) where a party meeting on the issue was to be held.

There are a total of 58,699 voters in the PB-50 constituency. Apart from the candidates of the NP and PML-N, other contestants included Mir Mohammad Ali Rind of the Balochistan National Party-Awami and independent Lala Rasheed, who obtained fewer votes.

The main competition was between the NP and PML-N. According to NP members, due to the threat of militant attacks, tension prevailed in the constituency in the run-up to the election and even on the polling day.

A source close to Mr Dashti’s family said that a couple of days before the by-poll, insurgents kidnapped a brother of Mr Dashti and torched houses of Mr Rind and Mr Askani. These incidents instilled fear in people a majority of whom kept away from polling stations.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2016

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