January 30, 2015
Balochistan is leading the way when it comes to pushing ahead with local elections, which passed off without incident on January 28, producing some interesting and very welcome results. The Election Commissioner for Balochistan Sultan Bayazeed has reported that elections were held across all the major parts of the province.
There was no election in five or six district councils because they failed to gather the two-thirds quorum that is required for an election to go ahead. Although the results are unofficial, there is no expectation that there will be any changes or challenges to the outcomes before the official results are announced.
One outcome of this successful exercise in local democracy is that Quetta has a new mayor, Dr Kaleemullah Kakar, who represents the Watan Dost Panel, which gained 54 out of the available 84 votes. Dr Kakar runs a hospital in Quetta and identified the city’s traffic problems and law and order as matters that were high on his agenda. The runner-up in the election was the PML-N candidate, who secured the position of deputy mayor.
The picture that emerges from the results across the province is one of political diversity in terms of both participation and outcomes. That diversity is both welcome and healthy, the more so as the elections were reportedly held without a single incident of violence anywhere in the province. Thus far, there have been no complaints of rigging or other irregularities.
It is extremely rare, perhaps unprecedented, for any electoral process to pass off in Pakistan without somebody crying ‘foul’ somewhere along the way. Balochistan, a province that has more than its fair share of troubles and violence, has been able to demonstrate conclusively that local bodies elections can be held, that such elections can be truly representative of the political grass roots and that democracy, even against the odds, can be seen to work for the good of all.
There is no reason why all of the other provinces should not follow the Balochistan example, but there is a strong doubt that they will. Local elections remain far off for most in Pakistan, but Balochistan has shown the way.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2015.