Polls to local bodies held in SW Pakistan
Islamabad: Polls to local government bodies were on Saturday held in Pakistan`s restive Balochistan province for the first time in eight years amidst sporadic violence and heavy security deployment.
Despite separatist groups calling a shutdown in the province and warning people not to vote, polling was conducted smoothly in 32 districts.
There were no official polling figures but media reports suggested the turnout may not have been very high.
Over 18,000 candidates are contesting for over 4,600 seats. According to the provincial Election Commission, there are 3.3 million registered voters, including 675,634 women.
In Khuzdar district, polling was stopped following a clash between two groups. Four persons were injured in a clash in Hub.
Women were initially stopped from voting in the troubled Noshki district but they were able to exercise their franchise after the administration intervened.
In some of the province`s most troubled and backward regions, voters waited in line for hours in the absence of election materials. In one instance, political parties expressed reservations over the administration`s attitude and hindered voting.
The provincial government allocated Rs 550 million for security arrangements, including the deployment of security forces. With 2,776 of the 5,325 polling stations declared sensitive, security was beefed up since yesterday.
According to the home department, 19,322 policemen, 16,312 Frontier Corps personnel, 5,325 soldiers 11,123 Levies personnel were deployed to ensure smooth polling.
Besides attacks by separatist groups, the province is affected by decades of inter-tribal feuds, mainly between Baloch and Pashtun, that flare up as election fever triggers a tug of war between rival candidates.
A large number of political leaders are facing threats from militant groups, mainly the Baloch Libration Front led by Allah Nazar, who asked people to boycott the elections.
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