Pakistan ignores India’s objection, holds polls in Gilgit-Baltistan

In the teeth of India’s objections, Pakistan has gone on a defiant note and held Legislative Assembly elections in the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan area amid tight security.

The polls were conducted in tight security, with several polling stations declared as highly sensitive. Some minor scuffles broke out at some polling booths, leaving some people injured and resulting in temporary suspension of ballot at certain places.

At least 5,500 Pakistan’s Army soldiers were deployed at all polling stations and at key entrance and exit points of the region. The area is strategically located, giving access to the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is expected to pass through it.

Contesting for 24 seats were candidates from all major parties of Pakistan, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of ex-president Asif Ali Zardari.

It’s the only second occasion when Pakistan held polls in this region to elect a regional legislature following devolution of powers in 2009, which changed its name from Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to the latest reports, PML-N has secured 12 of the 24 constituencies, followed by two seats each for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), while Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), managed to secure one seat so far.

Earlier, India had reacted strongly to the elections in Gilgit-Baltistan and said that Pakistan’s move of holding the election was an attempt to “camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation. But Pakistan had dismissed India’s stand and said India should avoid “interference” in its internal affairs.

India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had expressed concern at the “continued efforts” made by Pakistan to deny the people of the region their political rights.