Islamabad: With only a week remaining, a large number of contestants have geared up for the final stretch of their campaigns to take the lead in the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly elections 2020.
Elections are due next week in Pakistan’s strategically located Gilgit Baltistan region. The multi-billion dollar Pakistan-China CPEC Corridor (CPEC) also runs through the region in northern Pakistan.
Over a dozen political and religious parties, including the mainstream parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are contesting the polls scheduled on November 15.
This will be the region’s third election since GB was granted a status similar to provinces and created its own provincial assembly after 2009 Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order. PPP won 2009 elections while PML-N emerged victorious in the second election, winning 22 seats out of a total of 33. The 2020 polls were postponed in July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maryam Nawaz arrives in Gilgit
On Sunday, PML-N Vice President and party’s most active woman leader, Maryam Nawaz arrived in Gilgit to lead public rally. Maryam, the daughter of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, is keenly involved in the GB elections, establishing fresh contacts ahead of next week’s elections to win votes. She was accompanied by PML-N top leaders including former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.
Both opposition party leaders, Maryam Nawaz and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto have intensified their campaigns to gain majority seats in the GB election. Bilawal, 32, was the first political leader to launch an election campaign in Gilgit Baltistan.
Meanwhile, GB Chief Election Commissioner Raja Shahbaz Khan has urged leaders of all the political parties to help ensure free, fair and transparent general elections in the region.
GB elections details
The 2020 Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly elections will be held in 24 constituencies, each electing one member to GB legislative assembly. Almost 330 candidates will contest these elections, either representing one of the fourteen officially registered political parties of Gilgit-Baltistan or as independent candidates. GB assembly has 33 seats including 24 general seats, six reserved for women and three for technocrats.
The polls were pending after the assembly completed its five-year tenure in June after which a caretaker government was formed.
Voters and population
The region, which is home to an estimated 1.3 million people, has a total of 745,361 registered voters, including 339,992 women. Nearly 1,234 polling stations have been set up in 24 constituencies, of which 415 had been declared extremely sensitive. Police, GB Scouts, the Rangers and FC personnel would be deployed to ensure a smooth election process.
The region’s caretaker Chief Minister Mir Afzal had earlier announced that Pakistan Army’s support would not be sought for the upcoming elections.
Last week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also visit the region and formally announced the ‘provisional provincial status’ for Gilgit-Baltistan at a public gathering in Gilgit held to mark the 73rd Independence Day of the region.