FAFEN to observe NA-260 By-Election being held tomorrow

ISLAMABAD July 14, 2017: Pakistan’s second largest constituency NA-260 Quetta-cum-Chagai-Cum-Nushki is all set for the by-election on a National Assembly seat on July 15, 2017. The seat has fallen vacant after the death of Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Abdul Rahim Mandokhail on May 20, 2017. Mr Mandokhail had won the General Elections 2013 on the ticket of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). The predominantly rural and Baloch-centric NA-260 witnessed a record high-turnout of 41% during the 2013 elections.

The multi-district constituency spanning Chagai, Nushki and parts of Quetta has a total of 460,202 registered voters including 185,835 (40%) women. As many as 36,203 new voters – 18,737 men and 17,466 women – have been added to the electoral rolls after the GE-2013, marking up for a 10% increase. The number of women voters increased by nine percent, while men voters by seven percent. According to a population estimate based on 2013 statistics, the share of women in the constituency’s population is 47%, which indicates that they are still under-represented in electoral rolls.

Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has deployed 26 trained observers to cover the entire constituency comprising of 407 polling stations. Using detailed standardized checklists, FAFEN observers will observe the voting, counting and consolidation of results processes. In addition to polling station observation, these observers will also collect Form XIV (Statement of the Count) and Form XV (Ballot Paper Account). Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has set up 407 polling stations – 168 male, 131 female and 108 combined for the by-election. There are seven more polling stations than the previous election in the constituency. Two additional polling stations have been allocated to females and five to the combined category. Overall, 993 polling booths – 571 male and 422 female – will be set up.

According to Form-V (List of Contesting Candidates), a total of 17 candidates – nine political parties and eight independents – will contest the NA-260 by-elections. The previous winning party PkMAP has not formally positioned any candidate. However, FAFEN’s pre-election observation highlights that Jamal Khan Tarkai has their support. Since PkMAP has not held the legally binding intra-party elections, the ECP has not allocated an election symbol to them. The Jamiat Ulema-e Islam Fazl (JUI) has given their party ticket to Haji Muhammad Usman Badini, while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has fielded Munir Ahmad Baloch. The Balochistan National Party (BNP) has positioned Mir Bahadur Khan, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam Nazryati (JUI-N) Maulana Qari Mahar Ullah, Awami National Party (ANP) Malik Ibrahim Kasi, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) Umair Mahmood Hasni, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam Sami (JUI-S) Syed M Tahir Shah Akhunzada, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Ahmad Ali Kohzad and Mustaqbil Pakistan (MP) gave their ticket to Zahir Shah. The constituency witnessed an intense election campaign by JUI-F and PkMAP.

The National Party (NP) who is the part of the ruling coalition in Balochistan has not fielded any candidate. However, FAFEN’s pre-election observation highlights that NP is providing support to the JUI candidate. Moreover, JUI also enjoys the electoral support of local Hasni Qaumi Alliance and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ).  The ANP and HDP have extended their support to BNP’s candidate, while PkMAP-backed candidate has the backing of Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM). The tribal Barrech Qaumi Alliance is supporting PPPP.

The ECP has sought help from the Army and Frontier Constabulary (FC) and Quick Response Force to ensure the polling day security. The security personal will be stationed inside and outside polling stations. As many as 320 polling stations have been declared highly sensitive and 50 sensitive.

In 2013, FAFEN’s observers reported 27 pre-election and 455 polling-day incidents of violation of election laws and regulations. Citizen observers witnessed oversized campaign material at eight places, two incidents of use of loudspeakers, three of voter inducement and four of political wall chalking. Moreover, six unauthorized elections rallies and four instances of display of arms were also observed. A majority of the election-day violations (238) were related to the closing of voting and counting processes. As many as 7,032 votes were also rejected during the 2013 election. Post-2013 election, FAFEN observed the tribunal proceedings. Two candidates had challenged Mr Mandokhail’s victory in NA-260 praying to the tribunal to declare the election result void, and investigate the rejected ballot papers. However, both petitions were dismissed.

Exploring the previous party trends and voting behaviour in NA-260, a majority of voters entrusted their representation to three different candidates representing as many political parties during the general elections since 2002. Hafiz Hussain Ahmad of Muttahida Majlid-e-Amal (MMA) emerged as victorious in GE-2002; Sardar Al-Haaj Muhammad Umar Goragaje of PPPP in GE-2008; and Abdul Rahim Mandokhel of PkMAP in 2013. During these three elections, the voters’ preferences have shifted from alliance of right-wing religiopolitical parties to a center-left party and then to Pashtun ethno-nationalist party.

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML) was runner-up during GE-2002 and GE-2008, while during GE-2013 JUI stood at second position. As mentioned earlier, the 2013 election witnessed a record-high turnout of 41%, whereas only 28.6% and 26.3% electors had exercised their right to vote during 2002 and 2008 respectively. As many as 11 candidates contested GE-2002, 13 GE-2008 and 40 GE-2013.

FAFEN is a network of 50 leading civil society organizations working for democratic accountabilities across Pakistan. The observation of NA-260 is being carried out by Centre for Peace and Development (CPD), a local organization with their secretariat in Quetta, Balochistan.