CONSTITUENCY ANALYSISSituated in the heart of Quetta city, NA-265 (old NA-259) stretches from Almo Chowk in north all the way to Satellite Town in south. It’s western flank includes neighbourhoods along Sabzal Road, and Marriabad forms the boundary towards the east. With 320,931 registered voters, the constituency is arguably the only one in Balochistan where tribal affiliation will not be a decisive factor, given its urban outlook. Still, the election campaign in NA-265 revolves around parties and personalities, and residents’ issues and party’s manifestos remain marginal concerns. Though there are six parties in the contest, the main competition for the seat is between Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Balochistan general secretary Qasim Khan Suri. The third slot is likely to be taken by either Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Hafiz Hamdullah or Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s (BNP-Mengal) Haji Lashkari Raisani. NA-265 (old NA-259) stretches from Almo Chowk in the north all the way to Satellite Town in the south. It’s western flank includes neighbourhoods along Sabzal Road, and slum settlements in Marriabad form the boundary towards the east. In terms of socio-economic profile of voters, NA-265 presents a mixed bag. It comprises the elite residential quarters in Quetta Cantonment and along Zarghon Road as well as densly populated areas of the city’s centre. The Hazara vote is concentrated in the slums of Marriabad. In 2013, Mehmood Khan Achakzai won the seat, by bagging 38,401 votes. Qasim Suri was the runner-up with 16,006 votes. With 7,662 votes, Hafiz Hamdullah was a distant third. “In NA-265, the real competition will be between Achakzai and PTI,” says Syed Ali Shah, a senior journalist based in Quetta. He cautions that Pashtun voters’ support for Achakzai must not be taken for granted, since many in the community can have sympathies for Imran Khan as well. For the July 25 contest, most analysts still place their bet on Achakzai who is the only candidate in the NA-265 race with a national stature and has support in Pashtun pockets of the constituency. However, PTI’s Qasim Suri believes that the 2013 contest was rigged. Suri maintains that he was leading the polls till 10pm on the election day in 2013, but later in the night results were changed against PTI. Although Suri’s claim cannot be verified independently, but an analysis of votes casted in the previous election indeed raises questions about PkMAP’s voting patterns in the constituency. Then known as NA-259, the constituency included four provincial seats: PB-1, PB-2, PB-3 and PB-4 (the number of provincial assembly seats in NA-265 have come down to three: PB-27, 28, 29). The combined vote count of PkMAP’s candidates on all four provincial seats in 2013 was a little over 21,000, while Achakzai secured over 38,000 votes in NA-259. Suri alleges the additional 17,000 votes were a result of rigging. Achakzai and PkMAP have repeatedly dismissed the charge. The PTI contestant is confident about his chances this year because, he maintains, ‘rigging is not possible this time due to the increased use of social media and awareness among people’. 2013 result Mehmood Khan Achakzai 38,401 votes Qasim Suri 16,006 votes Hafiz Hamdullah 7,662 votes “There are 55 million mobile internet subscribers using social media at the moment. In 2013, there were just 3.5 million social media users,” Sufi says, “People will vote for me because of the PTI’s message of change as well as the failure of PkMAP in the previous Balochistan government.” JUI-F’s Hamdullah, a former Senator, is contesting from the platform of Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal. He can tap into the support from the conservative vote bank, however, internal rifts in JUI-F make his chances of victory quite grim. A JUI-F insider, who wishes not to be named, says that in Balochistan, the party is divided between Molana Sherani and Abdul Ghafoor Haidari factions. Sherani is more popular in the province but his men were ignored in the ticket allotment process because he lost favour Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Contenders from Ghafoor Haidari’s faction have been allotted most tickets in the province. In fact, last week there was a scuffle between workers of both factions at a mosque over the allotment of a ticket to Ghafoor Haidari for a Quetta seat. Haidari hails from Kalat and is considered an outsider by the party’s Quetta chapter. Haji Lashkari Raisani of BNP-Mengal will rely on the Baloch votebank in PB-29, Hazara vote bank in PB-27, and some of the settlers’ votebank in PB-28. With JUI-F’s internal rifts, Raisani, who used to be the president of PPP-Balochistan, is in a good position to secure the third slot. Rahila Durrani of PML-N, the firstever woman speaker of Balochistan assembly, and Naseebullah Achakzai from Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) are also in the contest for NA-265. However, neither of them are likely to end up even in the top three slots. Published in Daily Times, July 6th 2018.