FAROOQ MOIN The historic elections of the new Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly for 'empowerment' and 'self-governance' would usher in all-round socio-economic development of the people of the region, thus fulfilling their long-standing aspirations. The elections would strengthen democracy, give identity to the people and accelerate the pace of development for which already substantial funds have been allocated. For the first time in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), almost all the national political parties took part in the elections and the people showed great enthusiasm in order to elect their representatives. The local people are happy that they have finally been recognised at the national level as a distinct political region and an entity in its own right. They have demonstrated their approval of the new system by actively participating in the transparent and free elections by exercising their right of franchise. It is the mandate of the people which should be duly recognised, respected and accepted by all the stakeholders who sincerely believe in democratic politics. Instead of rejecting the public mandate and questioning the sanctity of vote, the political forces of the country must let the democratic process continue, consolidate and strengthened in GB. In the last elections conducted by the Musharraf regime, even though PPP had won eight seats it sat on the opposition benches. However, in the recently elections, the party bagged 12 seats out of 23. Undoubtedly, PPP candidates lost by a few votes in the polls and that too primarily to independent candidates who had earlier requested for the party's ticket but were not able to get it. In the November 12 elections, PPP emerged out as the largest single party in GB Legislative Assembly. The people have spoken politically in favour of the PPP, the largest and oldest party in the country having its elected representatives in all the four provinces, as well as in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and GB. The party has a history of deep connection with the people of GB since 1972 when Zulfikar A Bhutto first visited this region and introduced the historical reforms. His agenda was furthered by Benazir and is being carried forward by the current PPP-led democratic government as part of its legacy in the region. Certainly, this is the background for PPP's victory in GB polls. Why would people vote for the parties who displayed Musharraf's pictures during meetings and rallies in GB, when the whole country rejected him and his policies in the February 2008 general elections? Where polls in GB were suspended due to problems, due process of law is being followed to ensure transparency and re-polling being held. Moreover, the top leadership of all the political parties visited GB, held rallies and meetings during the election campaign for which the government supported their visits and provided them full security without any discrimination. As compared to the results of the last polls, this time these parties have made gains. With a democratic government in GB, the local people would have good governance, more employment opportunities with initiation of work on several development projects including new hydel power plants, agriculture, fruit processing, expansion of Gilgit and Skardu airports, and expansion of Karakoram Highway from Khunjerab to Raikot which will also increase Pakistan's border trade with China. The elections held on November 12, 2009 monitored by the judiciary, independent observers and media persons were efficiently and peacefully conducted by the Gilgit-Baltistan administration, despite the region being stricken by violent sectarianism. The object was to introduce a new administrative system first in the region and then hold polls in order to bring in a genuine and representative government to lead a democratic administration in GB. The onset of winter season was a major factor to hold the elections n November. The ensuing winter and heavy snowfall creates major communication and mobility problems and this would have delayed the whole electoral process considerably at least until April 2010. The writer is a freelance columnist.