Quetta Re­in­forc­ing the Sta­tus Quo

The elec­tions of 2018 did not bring any change in the lives of the peo­ple of Balochis­tan. In­nco­cent lives con­tin­ued to be lost and the levers of power sim­ply changed hands among the rul­ing elite.

Southasia - - MALÉ - By Adnan Aamir

On July 13, 2018, more than 800 peo­ple gath­ered in a mud-walled com­pound in Dringarh area of district Mas­tung. They were at­tend­ing the po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ing of Balochis­tan Awami Party’s (BAP) can­di­date for PB-35, Si­raj Raisani. As soon as Si­raj Raisani started his speech, there was a loud bang, as recorded on the cell­phones of par­tic­i­pants. What fol­lowed was the most dev­as­tat­ing ter­ror­ist at­tack in the his­tory of Balochis­tan.

Balochis­tan is far from be­ing a peace­ful place. The on­go­ing armed in­sur­gency since 2005 and sec­tar­ian ter­ror­ism has re­sulted in cat­a­strophic ter­ror­ism in­ci­dents in the past. How­ever, all such in­ci­dents paled in com­par­i­son to the Dringarh at­tack where more than 200 peo­ple lost their lives. Given the scale of dev­as­ta­tion caused by the at­tack, it got a fair amount of cov­er­age in na­tional me­dia and main­stream dis­course. As a re­sult, the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims got sup­port and at­ten­tion from the govern­ment.

In this back­drop, the peo­ple of Balochis­tan went to the polls on July 25. How­ever, Elec­tion Day did not prove to be a peace­ful day. A suicide bomb at­tack oc­curred near a polling sta­tion in the PB-31 con­stituency of Quetta. Ap­par­ently, the tar­get of the at­tack was the con­voy of a high rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cial which was pass­ing near the polling sta­tion. How­ever, the blast re­sulted in killing 31 peo­ple. Most of them were sup­port­ers and vot­ers of po­lit­i­cal par­ties who had gone to par­tic­i­pate in elec­tions and never re­turned home. Due to the fo­cus on the elec­tion, these vic­tims were for­got­ten al­to­gether by me­dia and there­fore also by the Balochis­tan govern­ment.

Af­ter a break of just two hours, polling re­sumed at the polling sta­tion where the suicide at­tack had taken place. Then it was business as usual and elec­tion ac­tiv­i­ties con­tin­ued for the rest of the day. Just like the rest of the coun­try, elec­tion re­sults stopped com­ing af­ter 9:30 pm af­ter the sup­posed crash of the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan’s (ECP) Re­sult Man­age­ment Sys­tem (RTS). How­ever, re­sults of elec­tions in Balochis­tan ex­pe­ri­enced longer de­lays as com­pared to other parts of the coun­try. Fi­nal re­sults of the con­stituen­cies in Balochis­tan were not re­leased un­til 64 hours af­ter the close of polls.

Given the elec­tion re­sults an­nounce­ment fi­asco, it was ob­vi­ous that elec­tions would be marred by rig­ging claims. As a re­sult, the Pash­tunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and the Na­tional Party (NP) were on the fore­front of lev­el­ing al­le­ga­tions of tem­per­ing of elec­tion re­sults. Both of these par­ties were lead­ing coali­tion part­ners in the last govern­ment of Balochis­tan and this time both these par­ties were wiped out from the elec­tions. Apart from them, there were no ma­jor claims of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in elec­tions.

The elec­tion re­sults were not much dif­fer­ent from what po­lit­i­cal pun­dits had pre­dicted. The newly formed BAP turned out to be a sin­gle ma­jor­ity party by win­ning 15 out of 51 gen­eral seats of Balochis­tan assem­bly. BAP was al­leged to be the prod­uct of pre-poll machi­na­tions of the mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment and the party lived up to its rep­u­ta­tion. How­ever, BAP could not sweep the elec­tions the way its cre­ators had en­vi­sioned.

Sar­faraz Bugti, for­mer out­spo­ken se­cu­rity Tsar of Balochis­tan, lost the elec­tions

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