The thorny politics of Jhalawan

QUETTA: Located in the rugged mountainous area of Balochistan, Jhalawan’s National Assembly (NA)-269 constituency is the heart of tribal politics. Veteran tribal chieftains have remained active in provincial politics from this area for decades.

Jhalawan, comprising one NA-269 seat and three provincial assembly seats – PB-38, PB-39 and PB-40, remained the centre of attraction of all political as well as religious parties, but none of the tribal leaders nor politician succeeded in forming a concrete alliance over there.

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In 2013 elections, National Party (NP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) joint candidate Maulana Qamarur Din succeeded in clinching the NA seat from Jhalawan, after bagging 25,500 votes while in second place was Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s (BNP-M) Abdul Rauf Mengal, who received 25,400 votes and lost the elections by a razor-thin margin.

As soon as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the date for general elections in the country, the poll activities, halted for five years, started gaining momentum.

With 228,547 registered voters, the constituency is among the most sensitive election areas of the country. Besides the number of voters, political influence also holds high value in the area.

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Former MPA and NP senior leader Sardar Aslam Bizenjo, BAP’s Muhammad Hassani and BNP-Awami’s Mir Zafarullah Zehri were seen in pictures circulating on social media discussing upcoming elections with Shafiq Mengal, which clearly predicts a new political alliance which could increase the woes of BNP-M and JUI-F in elections.

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The chief of Zehri tribe is also the strongest candidate for PB-38 Zehri, Kirkh and Mola from where he has already won twice. But his opponents former federal minister and his step-brother Israrullah Zehri and JAP Chairman Shafiq Mengal are also optimistic about their victory.

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With pledges to meet all humanitarian needs, the BNP-M chief is curious regarding the involvement of non-political forces in the election as he was of the view that their mandate could be stolen as was in the 2013 general elections.

Wooing the people into voting for him, JAP chief said, “We are electioneering with a vision of a prosperous Pakistan and Balochistan.”

The NA-268 Kalat-Mastung-Shaheed Sikandarabad has been JUI-F’s stronghold. For the 2018 general elections, MMA and JUI-F’s joint candidate Agha Mehmood Shah is the favourite, but NP’s Nawab Shahwani and BNP-M’s Manvoor Baloch are vying for the slot.

With fraught promises of development, peace and prosperity, the election candidates have commenced their political machination, public rallies and gatherings across the province. Only time will tell whether they really deliver on their promises.

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