The electoral battleground in Balochistan is witnessing a fierce competition as heavyweights of the province are striving to emerge victorious in the next general elections scheduled for Feb 8.
From nationalists to religious figures and conservatives to progressives – candidates are leaving no stone unturned to sway the province’s voters in their favour.
Seven former chief ministers – Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani, Jam Kamal Khan, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, Sardar Saleh Bhootani, Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali and Dr Abdul Malik Baloch – are also in the electoral fray.
The dynamics of the upcoming polls shifted notably when JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman filed his nomination papers for NA-265 Pishin.
As a goodwill gesture, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai withdrew his nomination papers from the constituency in support of the Maulana.
In return, the JUI-F reciprocated by withdrawing its candidate to support Achakzai from NA-263 Quetta-II and opted to compete against him from NA-262 Killa Abdullah-Chaman.
The Maulana, who is also the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) president, is all set to compete against Syed Zahoor Agha of the PTI and Pashtunkhwa National Awami Party (PNAP) chief Khushal Khan Kakar for NA-265 Pishin.
Despite facing strong opponents, the JUI-F chief has the upper hand as his party has previously secured victory in the constituency three or four times.
Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, the leader of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M), is in the race for PB-20 in Wadh and three National Assembly seats in the province – NA-263 Quetta, NA-256 Khuzdar, and NA-261 Kalat.
The BNP-M has struck a deal with the JUI-F in Khuzdar to enhance its chances of success in the elections.
This coalition is poised to contest against the BNP-Awami in Khuzdar.
National Party (NP) chief Dr Abdul Malik Baloch is contesting the polls from NA-259 Turbat with Syed Ehsan Shah of the BNP-M as his main rival.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani is also contesting the election from PB-32 Chaghi.
The PML-N and JUI F candidates will compete against Sanjrani, who is considered to be one of the candidates for the position of the Balochistan chief minister.
Former caretaker interior minister Sarfraz Bugti, who recently joined the PPP, is contesting the polls from his native town Dera Bugti.
Bugti is also one of the potential candidates for the slot of the Balochistan chief minister.
In the past, elections in the province were marred by bomb explosions and targeted killings.
In view of the looming security threat, the Balochistan government has decided to install 8,000 CCTV cameras to ensure fair and peaceful elections in the province.