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Dispersed polling booths seen as challenge in Balochistan

15 February, 2013

ISLAMABAD: More than 12 political parties from Balochistan attended a roundtable conference on the electoral code of conduct in the capital, which was organised by the Jinnah Institute with respect to impending elections in Balochistan.

The participants of the conference highlighted security concerns, including dispersed polling booths, as the key challenges to the holding of fair and free elections in the province. This was the fourth roundtable organised by the Jinnah Institute in its efforts to develop a consensus around the recently issued code of conduct by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) while collecting the recommendations of political parties to ensure its effective implementation.

Representatives of the Balochistan National Party, Agha Hasan and Khurshid Mir, were also present on the occasion and expressed their concerns on the "highhandedness of the security agencies" and cited lack of trust by Baloch people in the state authorities as a major hurdle towards electoral participation. BNP-Mengal demanded an end to the on-going military operation in Balochistan and called for release of all the missing persons in the province.

Leaders of other political parties, however, said that the conduct of elections in the province was possible, and if necessary measures were taken, the electorate in the province would vote in reasonable numbers. Balochistan Jamaat-e-Islami Amir Amin Akhundzada called for a transparent electoral mechanism and good scrutiny of the candidates, whereas Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, head of the PML-N said that a neutral caretaker government was necessary for effective enforcement of the code of conduct in the province.

Javed Ahmed Shah, leader of the PPP, said that it was the first time in the history of Pakistan that a ruling party is undertaking all possible measures to eliminate the possibility of vote rigging. "We are fully committed to holding free, fair and transparent elections in the country," he said. Arbab Hashmi of the PMLQ said that if required the military may be asked to provide security and protection to the ticket holders so that polls could be held in a peaceful manner. The meeting's participants also suggested that like India we too should consider holding elections in a phased manner so that all chances of sabotage were addressed.

Raza Vakil of the Hazara Democratic Party spoke about the recent sectarian killings of the Hazara community and expressed the need to make electoral arrangements more inclusive and secure for all ethnic and religious groups. Leaders of most political parties expressed their agreement on electoral code of conduct, but suggested improvements keeping in view the geographical and political conditions prevailing in the province.

End.

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