Is Maryam Nawaz going to create unrest in GB after a crushing defeat?

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has revealed that Maryam Nawaz is likely to create unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan after losing elections. If so, what options does Maryam have? Can it be a challenge for the security agencies and federal government?

Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s special assistant on information, has revealed that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) vice-President Maryam Nawaz is likely to create unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan after losing elections. “We have some reports suggesting Maryam’s plan to create unrest in the region after facing a crushing defeat,” Dr. Awan told media persons.

GB has 24 constituencies and its assembly has 33 seats. Candidates from political parties contested for 24 seats. Of the remaining seats, six are reserved for women and three for technocrats. The area has a population of about 1.3 million and a total of 745,361 voters have registered, of which roughly half or 33.

A total of 330 people took part in these elections. The PML-Q fielded candidates in 14 constituencies. And the PTI issued party tickets to 22 people and expressed its support for Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen’s candidates in two constituencies.

Gilgit-Baltistan was previously known as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA). It is an autonomous region in northern Pakistan with separate government and electoral systems. In 1970, it became a single administrative unit called the Northern Areas under administrative control of the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, formed from the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar.

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Journalists on the ground and local politicians had a clear understanding of who was going to win the election. “Generally, GB elects the party in power in Islamabad,” Haroon Rasheed, a prominent Pakistani journalist and political commentator, recently noted on 92 channel.

Why it was important for PML-N to win the election?

Experts believe that the GB Elections 2020 were important for the PML-N for two reasons. One, the party has been ruling the province for the last five years and it was the test of its governance. Two, PML-N came up with a new, controversial anti-establishment narrative and the electoral defeat or win is likely to determine if the narrative has received public approval or not. The results show the party not only poorly performed but also the policies and projects it followed were not what the people of GB looked for.

Why PML-N lost the election?

Political analysts are of the view that the PML-N might have won some seats had Nawaz not followed a controversial anti-army narrative in his recent speeches. At the moment, there is no significant presence of the party as local leaders are either joining the PTI or PPP, argue independent analysts. “We see a different type of politics in GB now. PPP and PML-N are on the same page to counter the establishment but in GB they are contesting elections without getting hard on each other,” Nouman Ahmad, a GB-based journalist told GVS.

Notably, Uzma Bukhari of PML-N has clarified in a show on ARY News that PPP and PML-N are two separate political parties, and their only collective goal is to challenge the establishment. “We are two different political parties. Don’t consider us as a merged political party,” she told Waseem Badami.

PDM failed in GB?

Although all parties contested narratives from different platforms yet there is a dominant view that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has greatly failed to demonstrate a great performance. Some experts had already projected the PDM’s failure. Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst who served as a senior official during the 2018 polls, said during a talk-show on Dunya TV that “the movement will likely involve more rhetoric than action”. Dr. Rizvi was of the view that the opposition parties won’t be able to stay united as many of them have “competing and contradictory interests”.

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There is also an opinion that the opposition is likely to fail due to an obvious that it has no anti-government plan. “The opposition will not be able to sell out its narrative. Khan’s government has a success story when it comes to Foreign Relations, it has an exemplary performance when it comes to defeating COVID-19, and Khan’s speeches at the UN made him a hero,” a senior bureaucrat told GVS. The officer was of the view that the opposition could set the agenda on high inflation but that is insufficient to shape an anti-government narrative when the current government seems to have done more than its capacity.

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