QUETTA – As general elections are approaching, the political environment is heating up in Balochistan compared to the atmosphere existed during the general elections of 2008 which were boycotted by Baloch and Pashtoon nationalist parties.

Former Balochistan chief minister and Balochistan National Party–Mengal President Sardar Akthar Mengal reached Quetta after ending his four year self-imposed exile. He was given a rousing welcome by his party leaders and workers when he reached Quetta from Karachi.

On the same day Akthar Mengal addressed a huge public gathering at Railway Hockey Ground Quetta which was attended by a large number of party workers hailing from various districts of Balochistan.

Sardar Akthar Mengal, who was incarcerated during the dictatorial regime of Pervez Musharraf, announced contesting upcoming polls, besides expressed his serious reservations on the deteriorated situation of Balochistan, lamenting that no steps were being taken to address the issues.

He said that a number of BNP workers and leaders had been killed and still the party workers were receiving threats due to which BNP workers even could not run election campaign.

Sardar Mengal categorically said that if steps were not taken for the improvement of situation, the option of boycott was open.

Following the arrival of Akthar Mengal in Quetta, political activities have accelerated as PML-N leader and former chief minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Amir Syed Munawar Hassan visited Quetta where they met different Baloch and Pashtoon nationalist leaders, including Sardar Akthar Mengal, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) Chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo of the National Party (NP).

Shahbaz Sharif’s visit intensified the political heat as he met Sardar Akthar Mengal, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Talal Akbar Bugti, Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo and other leaders.

Shahbaz visited the residence of Sardar Akthar Mengal where both leaders discussed various issues including the situation of Balochistan and upcoming general elections.

Akhtar Mengal told Shahbaz Sharif that party leaders and workers could not run election campaign in most districts of Balochistan, especially in Khuzdar, the native district of Sardar Akthra Mengal, which had been made a no-go area by armed groups -- allegedly backed by government functionaries.

Sources said that Shahbaz Sharif assured the Baloch leader that PML-N and its chief Nawaz Sharif would raise voice in this regard and would take up this issue with the authorities concerned.

The PML-N and BNP-Mengal showed consensus to make seat adjustments for the elections and announced formation of a committee which look after seat-to-seat adjustment.

Political observers say the PML-N was focusing on making seat-to-seat adjustment and alliance with nationalist parties in Balochistan and Sindh, calling it is a good strategy.

Political observers say that seat-to-seat adjustment between the BNP-Mengal and PML-N is possible on PB-I and PB-2.

They say that the BNP-Mengal candidate will be benefited at NA-259 Quetta, if the PML-N supports him while Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif during his meeting with Mehmood Khan Achakzai assured him PML-N’s support at NA-259.

Similarly, BNP-Mengal and PML-N can make seat adjustment at NA-260 Quetta Chagai but there are also chances that PKMAP may support PML-N candidate there.

Political observers say on PB-6 Quetta, BNP-Mengal could withdraw its candidate in support of the PML-N. In Sariab locality of Quetta both parties have approximately equal votes. However, if the PML-N gives ticket to any Baloch leader, the political observers say its candidate will be in strong position.

The PML-N has so far not announced its candidates for polls due to which party workers are greatly concerned and they have expressed their reservations saying that old party leaders were being ignored and newcomers were being given preference.

Before the visit of Shahbaz Sharif, JI Amir Syed Munawar Hassan also visited Quetta and held a gathering at Metropolitan Corporation Ground, besides meeting Sardar Akthar Mengal, Talal Akbar Bugti and other leaders. He said that the situation for holding election in Balochistan was not conducive and stressed for taking steps to improve the law and order.

Election Commission has declared 2,877 out of 3794 polling stations sensitive and hinted that army would be deployed on those polling stations while the sensitive material of polling would be shifted by helicopters.

On the other hand, European Union (EU) owing to prevailing law and order situation in Balochistan has decided not to send its observers here. Expressing his serious reservations, Akthar Mengal asked the EU to review its decision. He said that EU besides monitoring elections in Balochistan also observe human rights situation.

No big political alliance has been formed in Balochistan, however, as election date is nearing, the pace of seat-to-seat adjustment would increase and the political observers are expecting neck and neck competitions.