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QUETTA, March 28: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has assured the angry Baloch leaders of its full support and urged them to fully participate in the coming general elections.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim held a meeting with the leaders of 13 nationalist and other parties here on Thursday and appealed to them to contest the elections and bring about change through ballot, instead of bullet.

On a suggestion of the leaders, he agreed to extend the last date for filing of nomination papers by two days.

The leaders expressed concern over the law and order situation and security measures for elections in Balochistan.

Justice Ebrahim assured them that their apprehensions would be addressed. He said all possible steps would be taken to address reservations and redress their grievances.

He said Baloch nationalist parties should take part in the elections for the sake of positive change and restoration of peace in the province. He said the ECP would resolve the security-related issues on a priority basis. “I assure you that free, fair and transparent elections will be held in the province.”

The meeting was attended by Usman Khan Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Maulana Abdul Wasey and Kamran Murtuza of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Akhunzada Abdul Mateen of Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulana Abdul Qadir Luni of the JUI-Ideological, Dawood Khan of Awami National Party, Sajid Tareen and Agha Hasan Baloch of Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Dr Isaq and Abdul Khaliq Baloch of National Party, Dr Nashanas Lehri and Wahid Baloch of the BNP-Awami, Sardar Sanaulah Zehri and Haji Lashkari Raisani of the PML-N, Ayatullah Durrani and Bismillah Kakar of the PPP and Jafar Khan Mandokhel of the PML-Q.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan said the commission would fully support the Bloch leaders and asked them to take part in the elections.

He praised the nationalist parties for their decision to participate in the elections and said it would help bring about a positive change in the province. He said most of the political parties had agreed to contest the polls.

Mr Khan said that although Baloch nationalist leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal had expressed his reservations, he reposed confidence in the ECP.

He rejected a perception that holding elections in Balochistan was a difficult task and said the law and order situation was not as grim as being portrayed.

Caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai and the chief secretary had held a meeting with Justice Ebrahim on late Wednesday night and assured him that effective security arrangements would be made at polling stations.

“All political parties in the province will be taking part in the elections which is a very positive development,” Mr Barozai said.