QUETTA: The counting of votes was underway after local government elections in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, officials said on Sunday, with at least one person killed and 15 injured in violence during polls in different districts.
More than 3.5 million registered voters were expected to participate in the electoral exercise that began at 8am and continued till 5pm, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The election regulatory body said it had made voting arrangements in 6,259 wards spread across 32 out of 34 districts of the province.
The ECP established 5,226 polling stations in the areas where voting took place on Sunday, declaring 2,038 of them “highly sensitive” due to security concerns. Polling in the provincial capital of Quetta and Lasbela, which borders Sindh province, would be held in the coming months after the completion of delimitation process, ECP officials said.
“The time for polling has ended and only voters present inside the polling stations will be able to cast their votes,” an ECP spokesperson said at 5pm on Sunday.
The counting of votes was underway after the polls that were marred by violence in multiple districts.
A Levies soldier and a citizen received injuries in a bomb attack targeting a polling station in Manguchar area of Kalat district, according to Balochistan Additional Home Secretary Home Hashim Ghilzai.
Unidentified suspects lobbed a hand grenade at a women’s polling station in Killi Sardar Mengal area of Nushki district, while militants fired three rockets on a Levies check-post in Kohlu district. No casualties were reported in both incidents.
At least one person was killed in an armed clash in Ward 7 of Union Council 1 in Chaghi district, Additional Deputy Commissioner Yasir Dashti told Arab News.
Eight people were injured in clashes in Dera Murad Jamali district, according to Superintendent Police Hassan Lehri. In Sibi, Deputy Commissioner Mansoor Kakar said, five people were wounded after rival political groups attacked each other with batons and rocks in Chachar village.
Frontier Corps and Pakistan Army troops were deployed outside polling stations in seven districts of Makran, Kalat and Quetta divisions to avoid any untoward situation, Fayaz Hussain, the Balochistan chief election commissioner, told Arab News earlier in the day.
In the rest of the districts, he said, troops were on stand-by during the polling process.
The local government elections were held in the southwestern Pakistani province bordering Iran and Afghanistan after nine years in which 16,295 candidates of various mainstream, nationalists and religious parties were competing.
In a major development, candidates of Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman-led “Give Rights to Gwadar” movement clinched majority of seats in the port city of Gwadar, which lies at the heart of the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The movement succeeded in securing 52 seats in four municipal corporations in the city, while independent candidates won 34 seats, according to the ECP.
The electoral body said 132 women candidates participated in Sunday’s local body elections in the province.
Nagina Younus, who belongs to the tribal region of the province and is competing from ward six in district Mastung, said she wanted to address the issues facing women in her hometown.
“Women of my constituency are suppressed due to its male-dominated setup,” she told Arab News. “Hence, I decided to contest the election on the ticket of a nationalist political party to amplify their voices and address their issues.”
Asked about her family’s reaction to her decision, she said that her father and other family members pushed her to participate in the polls.
The provincial chief election commissioner lauded women candidates in Balochistan, though he said the number of registered female voters was much less in comparison to male voters.
The province’s secretary local government Dostain Jamaldini said the administration of Balochistan had been holding these elections after a long delay while hoping they would still help the government address public issues at the grassroots level.
“Security arrangement in areas facing tribal enmities has been strengthened to maintain law and order situation,” he said while briefing the media in Quetta.