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Pakistanis in Baluchistan province prepare for historic vote

By Abdul Malik Achakzai   |   Dec. 6, 2013 at 4:55 PM  |  Updated Dec. 7, 2013 at 11:14 AM   |   Comments

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Dec. 6 QUETTA, Pakistan (UPI Next) -- More than 50,000 security personnel were deployed to secure the balloting process for the local elections Saturday (Dec. 7) in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Voters were to select members of local governments, such as district councils, in the first local elections since the 2005 polling under then-Pakistani military leader Pervez Musharraf.

One reason the elections are significant is that while previously Pakistan’s federal government issued a budget to local governments across the country, Islamabad has now delegated responsibility for funding local governments to provincial governments.

There are 5,808 polling stations in the province for 3.2 million voters. Of these, 2,776 are considered sensitive for security reasons.

This is the first time local body elections have been contested on a party basis, with candidates able to be elected directly through adult franchise.

Sardar Mustafa Khan Tareen, the provincial minister for local government and rural development, noted that under the current procedures for electing local bodies, unlike those in place in 2005, the population is allowed to elect local representatives on a party basis. Women are allocated 33 percent of the total seats in local governments in each district, while other groups, including minorities and labor, each get 5 percent.

Although 54 percent of the province’s population is female, no more than a half dozen female candidates will contest on general seats -- those not reserved for any group.

The provincial government “believes in democracy and we are committed to provide facilities to our people through the locally elected leadership," Tareen said.

"More than 18,000 candidates will be contesting … 4,097 seats, where 2,507 candidates are already declared unopposed," Syed Sultan Bayazeed, provincial election commissioner, said.

He said about 5,300 army and 17,000 Frontier Corps troops, along with police and levies {tribal forces} personnel “are deployed to look after the security on Election Day.”

“We will try our best to ensure pure and fair election through our team of deputy and assistant election commissioners,” Bayazeed told UPI Next.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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