GILGIT  - Over 700,000 eligible electorates will decide the fate of some 315 candidates, trying their luck in 24 constituencies for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) legislative assembly elections being held today (Sunday) amid tight security arrangements and in compliance with anti-Covid standard operating procedures (SOPs). The polling will continue from 8am to 5 pm sans any break. 

Elections in Gilgit III would be held on November 22 due to the sudden death of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Gilgit-Baltistan President Jaffar Shah.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has fielded maximum 24 candidates, followed by PTI with 22 candidates, while PML-N has awarded tickets to 18 candidates, PML-Q to 16 candidates while Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl has handed tickets to 12 candidates, Jamat-e-Islami 3, Islami Tehreek 8, Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) 3, MQM 3 and three candidates are contesting the elections from Pakistan Awami league.

The 2009 elections for GB legislative assembly were won by the PPP while the PML-N was declared winner in 2015 elections. The Election Commission of Gilgit-Baltistan has banned carrying mobile phones inside the polling stations. The display of posters and banners is completely banned within 400 meters of the polling station.

Over 700,000 voters to decide fate of 315 candidates

The Election Commission of Pakistan has completed the arrangements for holding free, fair and transparent elections. First time in GB history police and para military contingents will perform security duties. According to details, of total 745,361 registered voters 405,363 are male and 339,998 are female while as many as 1,26,997 fresh voters will exercise their right of vote in the elections. Overall, district Diamer has more number of voters than in any other district of GB, with a figure of 119452, while district Nagir has the least number of voters, with a total figure of 37172 voters.

A total of 327 candidates, including 200 independents and four women, are contesting for 24 general seats while a total of 16 political parties are taking part in the elections. According to Faizullah Firaq, a spokesperson for GB’s interim government, votes will be cast in over 1,284 polling stations of 10 districts of the country’s fifth province, with 415 declared highly sensitive, 339 sensitive, and 480 normal. Talking about the security plan drawn up for the election day, the official said that a total of 13,481 security personnel, including 4016 from GB Police, 3,000 from Punjab Police, 2,000 from KP Police, 1,700 personnel of Rangers, 500 from Sindh Police, 200 from Balochistan Police, 965 from GB Scouts and 1,100 security personnel of FC, would perform their duties.

Responding to complaints of keeping women out of the electoral process, the chief election commissioner GB said that the commission was looking into these complaints, adding that elections would be cancelled if the required percentage of women voters was not achieved. It is important to mention here that since the promulgation of GB Empowerment and Self-government Order 2009, these are the third general elections in GB.

On the other hand, many political parties, including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), have already started pointing fingers at the federal government for wielding its influence to rig the polls.

Meanwhile, many local people believe that PTI is going to win at least 10 to 12 seats across GB and will form the next government in coalition with some independents despite the fact that PPP and PML-N’s election campaigns were also very impressive as evident by large crowds gathered to listen to Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto.

It must be noted that according to a recent survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan, PTI is most popular party with 27% of respondents choosing PTI, 24% PPP and 14% PML-N.