QUETTA - Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim has called upon Baloch nationalist leaders to participate in the general elections for bringing change through ballot.

He made the call at a meeting with leaders of different political and religious parties who apprised him about their reservations and demands in connection with the forthcoming polls.

CEC Fakhrudin reached Quetta late Friday night and held meetings with political leaders and government officials. He also met caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai.

The leaders of Balochistan National Party (Mengal), National Party, Pakistan People’s Party, Pashtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party, Hazara Democratic Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and other parties met with the CEC.

They expressed their reservations over security and other issues and presented their recommendations for making the general elections a success in the restive province. They told CEC that in various districts of the province there was lack of banking system and poor transport infrastructure.

The chief election commissioner assured them that all efforts would be made to address their issues. He said that the key purpose of his visit was to hear to them and address their problems. He urged all the political parties and groups to take active part in the general elections, saying that future of Pakistan was linked with fair and transparent elections. “The change does not come with bullet, rather it comes with ballot,” he said.

He said that army was extending every possible cooperation for maintaining peace during the elections. “Election commission is bent upon holding free and fair elections in the country,” he said, adding that Balochistan was an important part of Pakistan. He said that election commission had not received any application regarding delimitation of constituencies in Balochistan.

The meeting was also addressed by Election Commission Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed and Member Election Commission Justice (r) Fazalur Rehman who said that it was welcoming development that none of the main political parties in Balochistan were boycotting the elections.

Ishtiaq said that the government would provide four guards to each candidate during elections, adding that stringent steps had been taken to stop rigging and use of bogus votes. “Due to law and order, if Balochistan chief secretary wanted to change administrative officers, he can do so.”

He said that except for Karachi there has been no delimitation of electoral constituencies anywhere in the country. He said that on the request of political parties and in view of recent floods in Balochistan, the election commission extended submission of nominations until March 31.

Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoub Fateh Muhammad said that Pak Army and Frontier Corps have extended complete cooperation for security during the elections and both forces were at the disposal of election commission. He said that a security plan was being chalked out for Hazara community so that they could use their right of franchise in a secure environment. He said that if political parties had any complain against any officer of the administration, they should bring that to their notice.

After the meeting, PML-N provincial president Nawab Sanaullah Zehri told the media that political parties apprised the CEC of their security reservations, and they were assured of provision of proper security to voters and the polling staff. Besides, Zehri said they also asked for extending the date of submitting nomination papers and removing the flaws.

On the other hand, exiled Baloch nationalist leader and chief of Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, who has already announced boycott of the elections, said that neither the authorities of election commission had contacted them nor they would contact the ECP officials.

In an interview with a foreign media, he said that they did not wish to have relations with Pakistani state anymore and they had already decided that they would not participate in the elections. “Statements about holding of talks with separatist parties were mere political gimmicks,” he remarked, adding that participating in election was tantamount to recognising Pakistan while they were struggling for independence, not for elections.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Ishtiaq Ahmed said almost all political parties were participating in the elections. “Akhtar Mengal, despite having reservations, has reposed confidence in the ECP and decided to contest the election, which is a good omen for Balochistan.”

He dispelled the impression that holding elections in Balochistan was a difficult task. “Law and order in the province is not as grim as being portrayed.”

Ishtiaq said change occurs through the ballot and not through bullets and that the upcoming elections would bring change in Balochistan.

He said that efforts were being made to remove the reservations of all political parties, adding the election commission had decided to hold talks with the leaders of all political parties at the commission’s respective provincial headquarters, which was initiated in Balochistan.

The election commission’s secretary further said that during the visit to Quetta he along with Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ibrahim had met with the leaders of all political parties, the positive aspect of which was that all parties had unanimously said that they will participate in the upcoming elections.