Tight security, enforcement of rules mark low turnout in Jhal Magsi by-polls
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) candidate Khalid Magsi was leading the NA-267 Kachi-cum-Jhal Magsi by-poll with at least 27,392 votes while his rival Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was able to bag 16,262 votes, according to unofficial and unconfirmed results from 120 polling stations.
According to election monitoring group FAFEN, a low turnout of voters was witnessed in the by-election held amid tightened security and relatively better control of election administration over Election Day campaigning and canvassing in and around polling stations.
According to the report, although the election administration was improved on many counts, the presiding officers’ control over security officials did not register any improvement. FAFEN observers were arbitrarily barred from entering the premises of polling stations by the security officials at 14 polling stations despite the fact that ECP had duly accredited them.
FAFEN observers recorded a total of 263 violations at 55 polling stations averaging 4.7 violations of laws, rules and codes of conduct for political parties and candidates at each polling station. This average is relatively higher than the recent by-elections held in Sindh and Punjab. Among violations, as many as nine serious deviations from polling schemes were observed during by-election.
FAFEN’s estimates suggested a voter turnout of 20% by mid-day, however, the voting trend indicated that the turnout was unlikely to go beyond 33% by the end of polling. FAFEN mobilized a total of 39 observers to observe the election-day processes at all 165 polling stations setup by the ECP. However, this report contains information from 55 observed polling stations- 37 combined, 7 male and 11 female- the data from which was available promptly.
Although the number of voters have registered an average increase of six percent from GE 2013 in all constituencies. However, there was a negligible increase in the number of voters for by-election in NA-267.
The number of registered voters for NA-267 by-election 2016 was 148,058 – 88,789 male and 59,269 female –compared to 147,642 in General Election 2013 which showed 0.28 percent increase in the number of registered voters while same number of 165 polling stations (23 male, 23 female and 119 combined) were set up with 374 polling booths (200 male booths and 174 female booths) for the by-election 2016.
The by-election was necessitated after Supreme Court upheld the Election Tribunal’s verdict of disqualification of PML-N’s Khalid Magsi on February 03, 2016. Magsi was declared returned from the constituency as independent candidate in GE 2013 when he secured 42,240 votes against another independent contender Abdul Raheem Rind who could bag 38,915 votes.
A predominantly rural area, NA-267 comprises Jhal Magsi and Bolan districts of Balochistan. The area is mostly inhabited by Rind and Raisani tribes. However, the Magsi, Satakzai, Kurd and Bangulzai tribes are also settled in the area. Traditionally, tribal affiliations have driven voting behaviours, with the Rind tribe being particularly important following the migration of a large number of Raisanis to Mastung.
A total of 13 candidates were in run for the by-election 2016 where eight candidates were independent and the remaining five represented Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), National Party (NP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamote Qaumi Movement (JQM). However, the real contest was between PMLN and PTI candidates. Veteran politician Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind was a PTI candidate while PMLN fielded the ousted Khalid Magsi as its candidate.