Balochistan’s local elections

Local council polls conducted in Balochistan have yielded results which indicate the power of the sitting government. The election was conducted this time with a difference. First, the LB polls in Balochistan were the first which did not form part of elections countrywide. Second, they were the first ever local body polls held in Pakistan on party basis. It was also the first local body election conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan under a political dispensation. One of the trends visible might make it possible for the provincial government to carry on with the traditional control of local bodies that it has had. That is the winning of a large number of independents, who have won 486 of 1080 district council seats in the entire province. The ruling parties, the National Party (138), the PML-N (119) and the PKMAP (101) are also major winners. There is thus a nucleus in all districts allowing the ruling coalition to install district council chairmen of its choice. However, the presence of such a large number of independents means that they will make the running in electing the chairmen.
One of the salient features of the election was the fact that the PPP and the PTI remained seatless. That cannot be blamed entirely on poor candidate selection. It is a sign that the PPP policy in Balochistan of relying on tribal sardars to accept its tickets has not helped it build a support base in the province. The PTI should realize that its espousal of clean governance, including clamour about the holding of local body polls, has not helped much. Neither of these parties has much of a message for the voters of the province. This is not very positive, for that leaves the province’s district councils without any national party represented except the PML-N. The vote might be interpreted as a triumph for the National Party, which was second in the last election, and currently holds the chief ministership of the province, as a result of an offer by the PML-N. It might also be interpreted as a vote for BNP’s policy towards the nationalists, which is one of reconciliation.
Another issue that needs to be examined is that the local body polls, especially in Balochistan, were held in the teeth of opposition by the provincial governments, on Supreme Court orders, because the Court felt that the presence of local councils would help improve the law and order situation. It is to be seen whether the newly elected local councils will play a positive role in improving the province’s troubled law and order, which include missing persons aplenty, as well as killing of settlers from outside the province.

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