QUETTA- As the elections are approaching, the political activities are gaining momentum in Balochistan also. This time the nationalist parties which had boycotted the 2008 elections are also in the race.

More than 1,661 candidates have submitted their nomination forms for 14 national and 51 provincial seats throughout the province.

Balochistan National Party (Mengal) had boycotted the previous elections in protest against the military operation and enforced disappearances of Baloch political activists while National Party (NP) and Pashtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) had kept out over deposition of independent judiciary by Musharraf regime.

But this time not only these three parties have submitted nomination forms of their candidates, but two factions of Jamhoori Watan Party – JWP-Talal and JWP-Aali – are also taking part in the polls, first time after the assassination of former Balochistan chief minister and veteran nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

The prominent persons who have filed their nominations on their party tickets or as independents include BNP-Mengal’s president Sardar Akthar Mengal, NP President Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, PkMAP’s Mehmood Khan Achakzai, JWP president Talal Akbar Bugti, Mir Ahamdan Khan Bugti, Nawab Aslam Raisani, Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind, JUI-F’s Muhammad Khan Sherani, Sardar Umar Gorgiaj, former PM Zafarullah Jamali, PML-N’s Sanaullah Zehri and Gen (r) Abdul Qadir, PML-Q’s Asim Kurd Giloo and Jamal Kamal Khan and NP’s Sardar Kamal Khan Bangulzai. The scrutiny of nomination papers is continuing and final clearance list would be issued on April 7.

Neck and neck competition is expected are two national and six provincial assembly seats of Balochistan. There are another 20 constituencies where strong competition is likely. The main competition is between the nationalist and religious parties while there are around 10 such constituencies where the personalities, not the parties, would decide the outcome.

The fiercest competition is expected at NA-259 (Quetta city) among the PkMAP President Mehmood Khan Achakzai and leaders of BNP-M and JUI-F. BNP-M’s Nasir Ali Shah, a member of Hazara community, had won this seat in 2008 on PPP ticket. But Hazara Democratic Party’s President Abdul Khaliq Hazara has also submitted his nomination forms from this constituency.

A tough fight is also likely in NA-260 (Quetta-Chagai), the largest constituency of the country, where PPP’s Sardar Muhammad Umar Gorgaij had won last time. But this time PML-N’s Nawabzada Haji Lashkari Raisani, JUI-F’s Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and BNP-M’s Agha Hassan advocate are favourite.

Likewise, Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch of PML-N and JWP’s Talal Akbar Bugti would lock horns in NA 259 and 260. A tight competition is also expected in NA-262 (Qilla Abdullah), the home town of PkMAP leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai. Molvi Agha Muhammad of JUI-F had succeeded here in 2008 and Achakzai would try to reclaim this seat from JUI-F.

NA-263 (Loralai) was won by PML-N leader Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir in 2008. But there are chances that PkMAP and PML-N would agree on seat adjustment whereby PkMAP would support PML-N candidate on national assembly seat while PML-N would support PkMAP on provincial assembly seat.

On NA-266 (Jaffarabad and Naseerabad), former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali would compete with JWP’s Shahzain Bugti, Dr Abdul Hayee Baloch of NP and Zahoor Khosa. A tough competition is also expected in NA- 267 (Kachhi). This seat was previously won by PPP’s Mir Hamayun Aziz Kurd who has now joined PML-N.

On the provincial seats, a tight contest is expected between Sardar Akthar Mengal of BNP-M and Mir Shafiqur Rehman Mengal on PB-35 (Khuzdar). PML-Q’s Shiek Jaffar Khan Mandokhel, JUI-F’s Muhammad Khan Sherani and JUF-Ideological’s Asmatullah will vie for PB-19 (Zhob).

Former Senate Deputy Chairman Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali and Mir Saleem Ahmed Khan Khosa would fight for PB 25 (Jaffarabad–I) while two sons of former PM Zafarullah Jamali, Mir Faridullah Khan Jamali and Mir Imran Khan Jamali, would face each other in PB-26 (Jaffarabad-II). PPP provincial president Mir Sadiq Umrani would give tough time to PML-N’s Fateh Ali Khan Umrani on Naseerabad-I seat.

An interesting contest is also expected on PB-38 (Mastung) between leaders of PPP’s Ayatullah Durrani, NP’s Nawab Muhammad Khan Sahwani, PML-Q’s Asim Kurd Giloo and former CM Nawab Aslam Raisani. Among the other tough battlegrounds are PB-1, PB2, PB3, PB4, PB5 and PB6 where BNP-M, NP, PkMAP and JUI-F would try to perform their best.