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GB Council polls marred by allegations of vote buying

The Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) on Monday elected six members of the GB Council amid allegations that an independent candidate bought votes.

The ruling PML-N won four seats, while Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP) got one seat, and an independent candidate was also elected to the council.

The elections were held through the show of hand instead of the secret ballot. GB Election Commission conducted the polls.

PML-N successful candidates included Ashraf Sada, Wazir Akhlaq, Arman Shah and Sultan Ali Khan. ITP’s Syed Abbas and independent candidate Syed Afzal were the other winners, securing the required five votes each.

Interestingly, an influential independent candidate, Syed Afzal, allegedly used money to secure votes from the major political parties, including PML-N, PPP, PTI, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and Balawaristan National Front (BNF). The ruling party had changed the method of election from secret balloting to show of hands to avoid horse-trading and use of money to change loyalties of the lawmakers in the elections.

Opposition parties, including PPP, PTI and BNF, which have one seat each in the GBLA, voted for Syed Afzal, the influential businessman of the region, who had also won a seat at GB Council during the previous elections allegedly through use of money. The remaining two votes were provided to him by PML-N and MWM.

As PML-N has 21 seats in GBLA, its additional one vote went to the independent candidate. Surprisingly, a member of MWM, which has three seats in GBLA, voted for Syed Afzal violating party discipline and avoiding supporting the party’s own candidate, Ali Haider.

According to official spokesperson of MWM, the party has cancelled the basic membership of Kacho Imtiaz for violating party discipline.

According to insiders, all those lawmakers, who voted for the independent candidate without consulting their respective parties had received huge money from the independent candidate. According to them the influential person paid Rs28 million for each vote.

GB Council, headed by prime minister of Pakistan as its chairman, was established in May 2009 under article 33 of the GB Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009. It comprises 15 members, six from the GB Legislative Assembly, and the rest from Pakistani parliament.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2016

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