Suspending Equitable Elections

On the directives of the interior ministry, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has suspended mobile internet services in several districts of Balochistan till post-polling day. The move casts deep shadows over the polling process as it will not only blackout the election process in the districts, it also impedes the Result Transmission System (RTS) which allows the instant digital transmission of polling results from constituencies to the commission.

Where the suspension can be ascribed to a bearing down of intelligence agencies, Interior Ministry and the ECP on an escalating security threat in the region, in the current rickety political climate such an intervention leaves a bad aftertaste. Where the state asserts precaution against separatists as a security challenge in Balochistan as well as other populist movements in KP, that ‘might’ pose a challenge, the move shades the electoral process in hues of obfuscation and engineering. Where the retroactive security measures might be needed to insure against further acts of violence, the establishment cannot sacrifice a transparent and equitable election process on that caveat.

More specifically in the restive province of Balochistan, where the election process has been historically marred with political engineering, this development adds another glaring anomaly in the series of discrepancies in the provinces’ recent political machinations. Before the backdrop of the tumult between the de facto and de jure state apparatus, the electoral process in Balochistan has also seen the impromptu rise of a new federalist political entity in the shape of the Balochistan Awami Party. An amalgamation of largely PML-N dissidents, who coincidentally stand to be highly influential electables, holding sizeable vote-banks in their constituencies, the party is predicted to lead in the polls –however, with the opposing nationalist, ethnic and right-wing parties fiercely opposing the party as pro-state, the political landscape still remains highly tenuous and murky.

Ultimately, the more imperative issue remains that for stability in the region the political apparatus in Balochistan has to be cleansed of its bureaucratic power matrix, to which effect the need of a free and fair democratic process is imperative. The establishment and political parties need to uphold the democratic process to bring the issues of equitable socioeconomic development, personal rights and dignity, enforced disappearances, dialogue with Baloch insurgents-and ultimately peace in the region at the fore. For the economically deprived and poorly governed province of Pakistan, political accountability has to start with an equitable electoral process.

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