LAHORE, May 11: A massive awareness drive urging people to exercise their right to franchise proved its efficacy as people of all age cohorts and genders thronged at most polling stations across the city.

The already exhausted polling staff, however, could not handle the heat and many people, particularly elderly women, had to leave without polling their votes.

People had started queuing up outside polling stations early in the morning – even before the polling could begin.

Talking to Dawn, a number of voters said they had realised their right as well as duty to cast their vote and had decided to come early to poll their votes and then enjoy the day watching election frenzy on TV screens.

Different patterns of voters’ turnout were witnessed in different parts of the city. At two polling stations in Wapda Town, the available ballot papers were consumed by 1.15pm and the polling remained suspended for some 15 minutes when more ballot papers were provided.

The turnout was a bit low at polling stations in rural areas. Even at Fatima Jinnah Medical College, only 500 votes were polled out of 1,938 votes till 3.40pm.

At Johar Public School, G-I, Johar Town (NA-128 & PP-160), a voter, Hamid Javed, said it took him almost an hour to enter into the building from the queue outside and scores of people were still waiting for their entry to the polling station.

At a polling station in Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Chuhng, long queues were witnessed at both male and female polling booths.

An elderly woman fainted at around 11am while standing under the scorching heat and her family members carried her back without polling their votes. “Women have been standing at this polling station since early morning but the polling staff is too slow to handle the rush. It took me almost two hours to reach this room and another hour to finally poll my vote,” Salma Tufail told Dawn.

At the male polling booth, a voter, Imtiaz Ahmad, said the rush of voters remained incredible and he had been standing in the queue for about two hours. “Some elderly people have already left,” he added.

However, Presiding Officer Nasir Iqbal said some 500 votes were polled by around 11.30am and they made efforts to facilitate maximum number of voters.

PO Farkhanda, at polling station 159, said the people were coming to polling station in groups and, at occasions, there was high rush, while the rush receded at around 11am and 1pm.

At Araiaan Di Jhalar polling station, which catered voters from Bahria Town, the voters’ turnout particularly of women was too high. Some 600 voters had polled their votes by 1pm and PO Muhammad Abdus Salam had to move his staff from male polling booths to women polling booths.

A young woman, Maira Khan, who came from Norway, said she had come to the polling station along with family members but she herself was not able to poll her vote as her vote was not registered.

“Pakistanis living abroad had struggled a lot to get the right to vote but eventually denied and added that almost all Pakistanis in Oslo wanted to vote for the PTI,” she said.

At the polling station of Government High School, Chamrupur, women complained that many voters returned without polling votes because they could not stand in queues for hours.

PO Dr Nasira Sajid admitted that it was difficult to handle the rush of women voters, adding that the Election Commission had sanctioned seven-member staff but she could receive only five staff members.

At different polling stations, voters did complain of misguidance and their effort to stand in queues failed as they were told that their votes were in another booth in the same vicinity.

PTI candidates for NA-127 and 128 Nasrullah Mughal and Karamat Khokhar said that voters’ turnout remained very high but they received complaints of slow polling from almost all polling stations.

PML-N NA-127 candidate Waheed Alam Khan also told Dawn that the turnout of voters was too high, but polling remained slow.

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