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Pakistan’s PTI poised to form gov’t in Gilgit-Baltistan

REPORT-3-ENG-16-11-2020-GB

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Prime Minister Imran Khan and its allies are set to form a new government for the next five years in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, according to initial results late Sunday.

Although Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Election Commissioner Raja Shahbaz Khan told reporters that the election authorities have not officially announced any results, local media and unofficial results showed the PTI and its allies were leading, clinching half of the contested seats.

Official results are expected to be announced Monday as election authorities said they were facing difficulties in collecting results from several far-flung mountainous areas due to heavy snow and rain.

The PTI and its allies, according to the initial results, are in the lead with at least 12 of the 24 seats being contested in the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

At least four independent candidates projected to win are most likely to join the PTI to form the government.

The two other main contenders -- the center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and center-right Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), which won the 2015 elections in the region -- have cried foul, accusing the election authorities of "rigging."

The Chief Election Commissioner, however, denied the charge, advising the opposition parties to contact the commission if there are any irregularities.

The PPP, which is likely to clinch three to four seats, said its workers had staged a sit-in outside several polling stations where it claimed the results were not being announced in an attempt to favor the PTI candidates.

Several activists and police personnel were injured after PTI and PPP supporters clashed in Skurdu district, local broadcaster Geo News reported.

-No surprise

The PTI's victory would come as no surprise to many as voters have previously sided with the party that has been in power in Islamabad.

The first two elections were won by the PPP and the PML-N while they were in power in Islamabad in 2009 and 2015 respectively.

Over 700,000 voters cast ballots for 23 of the 24 seats up for grabs in the region’s Legislative Assembly, according to election authorities.

Voting for one seat was postponed after the death of a candidate.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a strategic area for Pakistan, bordering China and serving as a key route for the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Formerly known as the Northern Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan is located at the confluence of the world’s greatest mountain ranges – the Karakoram, the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush and the Pamir.

Before the end of British colonial rule and the creation of Pakistan and India in 1947, the region was part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Rich in history, culture and natural beauty, the area, which also remained a center of rivalry between the Russian, British and Chinese empires, has been a paradise for trekkers and adventure tourists for centuries.