Blast outside polling station during Balochistan local bodies election; no one harmed

Published May 29, 2022
Polling for Balochistan local government elections began at 8am on Sunday. —Photo courtesy Election Commission of Pakistan/Twitter
Polling for Balochistan local government elections began at 8am on Sunday. —Photo courtesy Election Commission of Pakistan/Twitter
Polling for Balochistan local government elections began at 8am on Sunday. —Photo by author
Polling for Balochistan local government elections began at 8am on Sunday. —Photo by author

Some reports of violence emerged as local government elections continued in 32 out of 34 districts of Balochistan on Sunday.

At around 2pm today, a blast was reported outside a women's polling station in the Mengal Union Council of the Nushki district. Later, SP Abdul Saboor Shah confirmed that it was a grenade attack. Fortunately, no loss of life was reported, he said.

In Sibbi, meanwhile, separate incidents of violence were reported. In ward 4 of the Mall Chachar Union Council, 10 people were left injured after a fight broke out between two groups. They were immediately moved to the district hospital where three men are in critical condition.

Later, the returning officer of the district union council, Waheed Sharif, told Dawn.com that polling in the area has resumed after a short break, which will continue till 5pm.

In Chaman, a large fight broke out between two groups. An unidentified person fired in the air in the area's ward 3 "in an attempt to destabilise the situation", District Returning Officer Yasir Khan told Dawn.com, following which gave orders to arrest the individual.

Security forces managed to get the situation under control, though the suspect could not be arrested.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), voting is being held in 4,456 urban and rural wards in which 16,195 male and female candidates are contesting elections. One-hundred-twenty-one candidates have been elected unopposed in urban and 1,463 in rural wards.

The schedule for polls in the remaining two districts, Quetta and Lasbela, will be announced later as delimitation for the elections was under way there following an increase in constituencies by the provincial government.

Earlier, a senior ECP official told Dawn that no candidate filed nomination papers in 108 rural and urban wards in different areas of Balochistan due to various reasons, adding that these wards would remain without public representatives.

Sources said these wards were located in Gwadar, Kech, Pasni and some other districts of the province, where the election would be held later once the security situation improved.

For the first time in the province, as many as 132 female candidates are contesting directly on general seats where they are facing male candidates. Most of these women belong to Kohlu district, from where 22 females are in the field, followed by 21 from Kech district.

Other female candidates come from Sibi, Pishin, Kharan, Washuk, Bark­h­an, Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Sohbatpur, Kachhi, Kalat, Khuzdar Loralai, Gwadar, Panjgur and Dera Bugti.

The ECP has set up 13,533 polling booths in 5,624 polling stations, of which 2,034 stations have been declared "very sensitive" and 1,974 "sensitive" where special security arrangements have been made.

Of all, 576 polling stations have been set up for men, and 562 for women, whereas 4,088 stations are non-segregated. In total, as many as 3,552,398 registered voters would use their right to vote in today’s elections.

Earlier today, Balochistan Chief Election Commissioner Fayyaz Hussain said that all the election-related arrangements at the polling stations have been completed and a heavy contingent of security forces — including the army, Frontier Corps (FC), police, Levies, Anti-Terrorist Force and Rapid Response Force — has been deployed in all 32 districts.

"The chief election commissioner of Pakistan and secretary election commissioner are overseeing the polling themselves," he said.

The provincial government has also formed an election monitoring room in the Islamabad Secretariat. Residents can register their complaints by calling 051-9204402-03 or 051-9210837-38, Hussain said. "We are determined to ensure that voting in Balochistan is held in a transparent and fair manner," he vowed.

Section 144 imposed

Meanwhile, the government has imposed Section 144 (power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger) in the province, except for Quetta and Lasbela districts.

Under the law, a ban has been imposed on the carrying and displaying of all kinds of weapons, pillion riding, strikes or slogans, and the use of tinted glass on vehicles.

The orders, put in place on May 27, will remain in force till May 30. It would, however, not be applicable to personnel of law enforcement agencies.

Election commissioner Hussain also clarified that election campaigns across the province ended on May 27 and today no one would be allowed to run any campaigns.

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