Protests in Balochistan Amid Controversy Over Election Outcome

Various political parties held rallies and sit-ins in different parts of the province on Monday to protest against alleged rigging in the election outcome. As a result, traffic between Balochistan and other provinces underwent suspension.

Pakistan witnesses country-wide protests as the people express anger and dissatisfaction with the poll results. However, a survey conducted a day before the elections stated that the majority of Pakistanis would accept the results.

Nationalists Come Together

An alliance of four parties representing Baloch, Pashtoon, and Hazara nationalists called for a shutterdown strike in the province on Tuesday. They made it clear that they would continue their protest until the withdrawal of what they called the “changed results.”

The alliance, consisting of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), PTI, and Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), also sought cooperation from other political parties to make the strike against the contested election outcome successful. They aimed to pressure the ECP and the establishment to respect the mandate of the people of Balochistan.

On Monday, following a call for protest against alleged rigging, the National Party observed a complete shutterdown strike in Turbat and other areas. All markets and private banks in Turbat remained closed throughout the day, and intra-city traffic was minimal.

Conspiracy Against Nationalists

During a rally, NP President Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch said the establishment should not interfere in politics. He emphasized that their duty was to defend the country and its borders. Dr. Baloch claimed that there was a well-planned conspiracy to keep Baloch and Pashtoon nationalists away from parliament. However, he vowed to resist such conspiracies and ensure that they could represent their people in parliament and advocate for their rights.

Protests also continued in Quetta, Chaman, Zhob, and the northern parts of Balochistan. The NP, BNP-Mengal, PkMAP, PTI, and HDP continued their sit-ins outside the offices of the commissioner and deputy commissioner. The PkMAP blocked Serena Chowk in Quetta after a JUI-F candidate was declared the winner against Khushhal Khan Kakar, resulting in the suspension of vehicular traffic. Trade with Afghanistan and Iran also suffered, as the protesters blocked the Quetta-Chaman and Quetta-Taftan highways. Long queues of cars, buses, and trucks caused difficulties for travelers and transporters, who had to wait for traffic clearance.

Uncertainty in Pakistan

Confusion persisted following the closure of the polls due to unspecified “internet issues” affecting the election commission. As a result, ECP postponed the counting process until the early morning of February 9th. This contravened the legal obligation to present results by 2 am. Promptly, supporters of the PTI party accused both the army and the caretaker government of tampering with the election outcome. Their social media platforms were flooded with videos claiming irregularities at the polling stations. (The election authorities refuted these allegations.)

This is not a positive sign for a country that received a bailout from the IMF for the 23rd time last year and is still experiencing an economic crisis. Pakistan is in dire need of political stability. However, regardless of how this democratic process unfolds, stability seems highly unlikely in the near future.