Votes that count

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Published in, The Friday Times

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by Zia Ur Rehman

May 31-June 6, 2013

http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20130531&page=3

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Nazaryati (JUI-N) – a political group that supports the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda – suffered a shocking defeat in the May 11 elections in Balochistan.

The splinter group was formed in 2008 when the hardcore supporters of the Afghan Taliban in the JUI-F abandoned the party complaining it had stopped preaching Jihad and supporting the Taliban movement in the neighboring Afghanistan.

In the 2008 elections, JUI-N chief Maulana Asmatullah defeated JUI-F Balochistan chief Maulana Khan Muhammad Sherani in the NA-264 constituency of the National Assembly (covering Zhob, Sherani and Killa Saifullah). The party also won several seats in the provincial assembly. But in the recent elections, the JUI-N did not win even a single seat from Balochistan.

The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) led by Mahmood Khan Achakzai emerged as the largest party in the Pashtun belt in Balochistan in recent elections.

“The elections in the Pashtun areas of Balochistan were completely rigged,” said Maulvi Abdul Qadir Luni, the JUI-N secretary general. Luni said his party had been targeted because of its support for Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

“People have demonstrated their faith in progressive forces and rejected religious groups”

The JUI-N was the first religious political party to organize a protest rally in Quetta on May 2, 2011 to pay homage to slain Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. Political observers say the party runs a network of madrassas in Killa Abdullah that hundreds of Afghan students attend.

“The JUI-N was created with the aim to punish the JUI-F in the 2008 elections, because we had made a clean break with militancy and were not ready to accept the politics of proxy groups,” said Jan Muhammad Achakzai, a spokesman for the JUI-F. “Now that those powers have withdrawn their support, the JUI-N has crumbled.”

But political observers say the JUI-N gave a tough competition to the JUI-F in the Pashtun belt, and the rift between the two groups of the JUI benefited the PMAP. In NA-264, Maulana Asmatullah bagged 27,512 votes and lost to Maulana Sherani who bagged 30,870 votes. Another JUI-N candidate Maulana Noorullah received 14,383 votes in the PB-20 constituency of Killa Abdullah against JUI-F leader and former senior minister Maulana Abdul Waseh, who received 18,297 votes. Jan Muhammad Achakzai rejects the notion that the JUI-F lost because of divided support.

The Muttahida Dini Mahaz (MDM), an alliance of various religious parties including Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ), also participated in the polls in the Pashtun belt of Balochistan, but did not win any seats.

“The defeat of the radical JUI-N and the MDM is indeed significant,” said a professor at Balochistan University. “They are radical groups and openly support Taliban militancy in the province.” He said the JUI-N was supporting Afghan and sectarian militants in Quetta and other Pashtun parts of the province.

The PMAP, known to be a well-organized, influential Pashtun nationalist party, did not participate in the 2008 elections in protest against the government led by military ruler Pervez Musharaf, leaving the field open for other parties. As predicted by local political observers and analysts, the return of PMAP had a significant impact on the province’s politics. The party has emerged as the largest in the Pashtun areas of Balochistan, with 10 seats in the 51-member Balochistan Assembly. They have also won three National Assembly seats from the province.

“The people have demonstrated their faith in progressive forces and rejected religious groups,” said Usman Khan Kakar, a central leader of PMAP. He said his party would strive to end militancy, sectarianism and lawlessness in the province.

The JUI-F, which was expecting to emerge as the largest political party in the province, was only able to win six provincial assembly and three National Assembly seats. It is in the same position it was in after the 2008 polls.

“The JUI-F could not be challenged politically in Balochistan,” said Jan Muhammad Achakzai. “It was denied many seats in the assembly with large scale rigging. We have received videos and letters to prove that.” He said the aim of the rigging was to create a conflict between Pashtuns and the Baloch.

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