The electioneering in the six constituencies of Skardu district, the capital city of Baltistan Division, is gaining momentum with the arrival of these leaders most of whom are here on their maiden visit.
After announcement of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order and separate commissionery status for Baltistan Division by the PPP-led government, not only public enthusiasm in the elections has increased but the interest and ambitions of politicians have also soared.
November 5 was the busiest day for the people of Skardu when many top leaders including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Abbasi and Siddiqul Farooq visited Skardu and Ghanche districts and addressed public gatherings. Former deputy chief executive Fida Mohammad Nashad who is contesting from Skardu-I and III from PML-N platform had gathered a large number of people to show his strength.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain also addressed a huge public gathering at Yadgar Chowk by telephone from London. PML-Q’s Nisar Memon, his daughter MNA Marvi Memon, Mushahid Hussain and Dr Sher Afgan in a bid to save the fast eroding support to the party have already visited the region to muster support for their candidates.
Traditionally two parties – PPP and PML-N — have been active in electoral politics in Baltistan but this time around a new player – MQM — has entered into the arena and attracted majority of the youth. Some candidates are contesting the election independently. The voters are also now careful in keeping their sympathies closer to their heart. It is hard therefore to predict the results before the evening of November 12.
Party affiliations apart people continue to give more weight to personalities than programmes or promises. This time although the majority seems pleased with the ruling party because of its recent financial and administrative reforms package, voters in certain constituencies are not sure about the ruling party’s candidates and may side with personalities of their choice, not of the party they support.
Despite peoples caution and lack of trust in politicians, the present election is drawing more public attention and the political parties too are keener than before because of the new assembly’s increased powers in the new setup. As a result in addition to political parties, a number of candidates are contesting the election independently. There is an atmosphere of celebration with party banners and flags flying from the rooftops and pictures of party leaders and candidates displayed at prominent spots.
To ensure peace and transparency in the polls process the election commission and district administration have made necessary arrangements and are impressing upon the candidates not to indulge in smear campaigns against their rivals and strictly follow the norms of decency set by the Commission. Yet some circles and parties are already complaining of malpractices by ruling party candidates. Complaints of using Benazir Income Support fund in the election campaign of PPP candidates and involvement of some bureaucrats and use of government machinery to favour them are on the rise.
As many as 33 candidates are in the run for the six seats assigned to Skardu in the 24-member Assembly. The population of Skardu district according to election commission is 281899 with 1,68,729 voters – 89,367 men and 79,362 women.
In LA-7 Skardu-I six candidates are in the run. They are Syed Mehdi Shah, provincial chief of PPP, former Deputy Chief Executive Haji Fida Mohammad Nashad (PML-N), Wazir Villayat Ali (PML-Q), Raja Zakaria Khan (MQM) and two independents, Mohammad Hadi and Ibrahim Hur. In this constituency the PPP candidate seems to be in stronger position because of the political package and separate administrative status given to Baltistan. However the PML-N and MQM candidates can put tough contest to the PPP. It has been observed that the supporters of Haji Fida Mohammad Nashad are not exposing their sympathies for PML-N which can spring a surprise on election day. When Raja Zakaria contested the previous election in 2004, he emerged as a popular young politician because of his social and political activities on behalf of PML-Q. Although he could not win the seat, he obtained enough votes to surprise the analysts then. However, now when he was expected to show better results his prospects have slumped because of joining the MQM which is new entrant in Gilgit-Baltistan politics.
The population of this constituency is 26,911 with 28010 voters. This constituency has importance as it is the municipal area and all the offices of head of departments are located here. Problems are common in the entire Baltistan. However, shortage of electricity, sewerage system, lack of industries and lack of better treatment facilities in the SHQ hospital are more crucial.
In LA-8- Skardu-II, four candidates — Sheikh Nisar Hussain Sarbaz of PPP, Advocate Ghulam Nabi (Ind), Syed Mohammad Ali Shah (Ind) and Nisar Hussain Balti of MQM are in the run. Sheikh Nisar Hussain Sarbaz and Ghulam Nabi were members of the last assembly. Syed Mohammad Ali Shah has also proved to be a third most popular candidate. However, the competition according to analysts would be between Mohammad Ali Shah and Advocate Ghulam Nabi in this most backward constituency. Main issued faced the people in this constituency are clean drinking water, health, education and land compensation. The total number of registered voters here is 39,325.
In LA-9 Skardu-III, tough competition is expected between PML-N candidate Fida Mohammed Nashad and Wazir Shakeel Ahmed of PPP. Both are senior politicians with strong political and social background. A third potential candidate is Ghulam Raza Haideri of MQM. The number of registered votes is 23,584. Problems here are communication, better educational and health facilities.
In LA-10 Skardu-IV, (Rondu valley) there are 10 candidates contesting the GBLA election, however, the competition is between Wazir Hassan of PPP, Capt (retd) Sikandar of PML-Q. Wazir Hassan and Capt Sikandar have been members of the assembly and both have strong political background. Raja Hussain Khan Maqpoon, owner of a local newspaper group, is also in the run. Wazir Hassan is stated to be in stronger position.
In LA-11 Skardu-V (Kharmang), which is a border area consisting of remote valleys, seven candidates are trying their luck. However, the actual competition is between Syed Mohammad Ali Shah of PPP and Fauzia Saleem Abbas (Ind). Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, known as Agha Fokar, is a senior politician and a noted religious scholar. Gilgit-Baltistan’s slain deputy speaker Syed Asad Zaidi was from this constituency. Skardu District profile
The late Zaidi was killed in an ambush in Gilgit early this year. Fauzia Saleem Abbas is a former member of the assembly and has better record of developmental and social works in the region.
The population of this area is 31,874 and the number of votes 23,266. The main problem here is non-restoration of Skardu-Kargil road, land compensation, non-availability of better health and education facilities. It is a sub-division but people are demanding a separate district status for Kharmang. Thus, there is a tough competition between Fauzia and Agha Fokar. Syed Haider Shah Rizvi a nationalist leader, Kacho Mehdi Ali Khan, Iqbal Hassan, Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Wazir Kaleem of
MQM are also in the run. The two candidates Qaim Ali Shah and Iqbal Hassan educated and are degree holders but new in the political field while Shed Haider Shah has some experience of social and political works in the region and known to be an active nationalist leader.
The situation in LA-12 Skardu-VI, (Shigar valley), MQM’s Raja Azam Khan is in stronger position against PPP’s Imran Nadeem. In this constituency the majority of population wants change in the leadership. The people of this constituency are not satisfied with the past record of Imran Nadeem. [Source DAWN]