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.
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