QUETTA: All is set for holding peaceful and transparent elections on 67 national and provincial assembly seats in Balochistan, scheduled for February 8, with a total of 5.37 million male and female voters expected to exercise their voting rights.

Provincial Election Commissioner, Muhammad Fareed Afridi, mentioned this during a press conference on Monday, alongside Joint Election Commissioner Abdul Qayyum Shinwari, Director of Elections Wasim Ahmed and Regional Election Officer Muhammad Naeem Ahmed.

Mr Afridi stated that 1,696 candidates from various political parties and independents are participating in the elections, contending for 16 national assembly seats and 51 provincial assembly seats. The distribution includes 429 candidates for national assembly seats and 1,267 for provincial assembly seats.

The provincial election commissioner highlighted the establishment of 5,026 polling stations, with 1,651 identified as sensitive. On election day, a deployment of 31,000 security personnel, including police, Balochistan Levies, FC, Army, and other law enforcement agencies, is planned to ensure the safety of candidates and voters throughout the province.

Mr Afridi provided details on the voter demographics, indicating a total of 5.37m voters in Balochistan, comprising 3m male and 2.3m female voters. Additionally, 51,626 polling officers will be assigned to polling stations, including 5,279 presiding officers (1,247 women and 4,032 men) and 31,252 assistant presiding officers (17,266 men and 13,986 women), all of whom have undergone training for supervising the polling process.

“A total of 121 candidates are contesting on the reserved seats in Balochistan, including 28 on the reserved seats of the national assembly for women, 62 on the reserved seats for women in the provincial assembly, and 31 candidates on the reserved seats for non-Muslims in the Balochistan Assembly,” he said, adding that complaints concerning the ROs are being investigated.

“The voters won’t have to wait in long queues due to availability of polling stations. The process will be completed quickly,” he said, adding that a “gender desk” has been established for women voters.

“In case of a network issue, the ROs will be facilitated through a satellite system so that the results can be compiled on time i.e first day. For journalists and observers, there will be a media wall in each office,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2024

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