ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday announced through a notification that elections for the Legislative Assembly of strategically-located Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) would be held on Nov 15.
The elections on the 24 general seats of the GB Legislative Assembly were earlier scheduled to be held on Aug 18 but were later postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The five-year term of the previous assembly had ended on June 24, bringing an end to the five-year rule of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
“The president of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to announce Sunday, the 15th November 2020, as the poll day for the general elections to the GB Legislative Assembly in terms of Section 57(1) of the Elections Act 2017,” says the notification.
The new date of the elections has been announced amid reports of an agreement between the government and the opposition parties to hold consultations on the proposal of granting “provisional provincial status” to GB after the elections.
PPP chairman announces candidates
The proposal to grant the status of a province on provisional ground to GB was discussed at a recent meeting between Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the country’s political leadership.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had claimed that the leaders of the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had assured the army chief that they would support the move to grant “provisional provincial status” to GB. However, the leaders of both the opposition parties said an understanding had been reached at the meeting that the issue would be taken up and discussed after elections in GB.
The railways minister, who had divulged details of the meeting of the leaders of the key political parties with the army chief, had said Gen Bajwa had left it to the country’s political leadership to decide the timing of implementation of the decision about change in the GB’s constitutional status.
A senior opposition member had said the opposition had categorically told the government and the army chief that any such move before the elections would be considered ‘pre-poll rigging’ and that they would also have to look into ramifications of the move as it should not disturb the country’s stance on Kashmir dispute.
PPP vice president Sherry Rehman on the other hand had said changing the constitutional status of GB was a “sensitive matter” as India always made Pakistan a target of criticism on the issue.
A key government minister, who is privy to the development, had said it was at the request of the opposition parties that the government had agreed to initiate the process of consultations on the proposal to convert GB into a province after the elections in the region, as the opposition believed that if such a move was made now, the PTI could take political advantage of it in the coming elections.
The opposition parties had already warned the federal government against any move to interfere in the GB elections terming it a sensitive matter and the warning was also mentioned in the 26-point declaration issued at the conclusion of the opposition’s Sept 20 multiparty conference.
Speaking at a news conference in July, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had said any attempt to rig GB elections would be against national interest and national security.
“The interest of Pakistan lies in free, fair and transparent elections in GB. Pakistan cannot afford to have any political controversy or dispute in GB which has already become a flashpoint in the region and many countries are eyeing it to get benefit,” Mr Iqbal had said before adding that he wanted to give a message to the national institutions so that free, fair and transparent elections were held in GB. “The federal government should refrain from horse-trading and interference [in the polls],” he had remarked.
Mr Iqbal said GB had acquired great significance in the region due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that was now a “jugular vein” for the country.
Meanwhile, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari announced party candidates for the GB elections. The candidates were announced after consultations by the party’s parliamentary board established in this regard.
The PPP candidates include: Amjad Hussain (GBLA-1 Gilgit-I); Jameel Ahmed (GBLA-2 Gilgit-II); Aftab Haider (GBLA-3 Gilgit-III); Javaid Hussain (GBLA-4 Hunza Nagar-I); Zahoor Kareem (GBLA-6 Hunza Nagar-III); Syed Mehdi Shah (GBLA-7 Skardu-I); and Mohammad Ali Shah (GBLA-8 Skardu-II).
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2020