KARACHI, June 7: Re-polling will be held in six polling stations of provincial assembly constituency PS-128 on Saturday following an order by the Election Commission of Pakistan with two major parties the Awami National Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf boycotting the re-polling, as army troops were ‘ordered’ to be deployed in and outside the polling stations.
With more than 9,000 votes today’s polling is being seen as crucial for two parties — the Muttahida Quami Movement and the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz (MDM) — which were seen in a neck-and-neck contest during the May 11 polls when an early morning bomb blast in one of the areas of the constituency killed more than a dozen people and affected the balloting process in some six polling stations.
“There are in total 9,547 registered voters who would be using their rights in six polling stations,” said Sindh election commissioner S.M. Tariq Qadri. “We will set up a total of 24 polling booths in these stations. Ample security arrangements have been made and to make them stronger the Pakistan army soldiers will perform duties in and outside the polling stations. The competent authority has already issued orders in this regard,” he added.
The ECP had ordered re-polling after the MDM candidate and a senior leader of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat Aurangzaib Farooqi challenged the initial results and appealed for re-polling in six polling stations arguing that the early morning May 11 bombing in his constituency did not allow certain voters to use their rights.
The bomb blast on May 11 morning apparently targeting ANP’s election office in the Landhi area killed more than a dozen people including a little boy and left nearly 50 injured including 11 children.
After a series of hearings in Islamabad, the ECP accepted MDM’s plea and on May 17 ordered re-polling in six polling stations. Apart from those six polling stations, MQM’s Waqar Hussain Shah was leading the contest with 23,496 votes followed by ASWJ’s Mr. Farooqi with 21,332 votes.
Though the ANP bagged only 3,108 votes on May 11, the party preferred to stay away from the scheduled re-polling process to register its boycott in protest. The ruling partner in the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition in the previous government was critical of the ECP which did not ‘bother to hear its plea before reaching a decision’.
“The May 11 bombing in fact targeted our candidate Aman Mehsood and killed his security guard. The attack claimed the lives of 11 of our workers that also included the son of our polling campaign chief,” said Abdul Malik, the ANP Sindh spokesman. “We wonder how the ECP could reach a conclusion without hearing the most affected party. After that incident our workers were unable to participate in May 11 elections in the constituency and that’s why we demanded re-elections in the entire constituency and not re-polling in certain polling stations,” said the spokesman.
The PTI, which grabbed 3,557 votes on May 11, also came up with the same demand but did not explain the reasons behind their boycott. The party’s candidate from the constituency Inayat Khattak in a statement announced its decision to boycott the re-polling, which the PTI had earlier accepted for 43 polling stations in NA-250 and emerged victorious.
“The re-polling decision is consequent to absolute disregard for the PTI's demand that re-polling exercise must be undertaken in the entire constituency and not in the selected six polling stations,” Mr Khattak said. “The PTI has already submitted before the ECP to ensure re-election for PS-128, which must be done under army’s surveillance. The party had also demanded the installation of closed-circuit television cameras inside the polling stations.”
Meanwhile, Sindh police chief Shahid Nadim Baloch directed the police to ensure strict security arrangements boosting coordination with other law-enforcement and intelligence agencies for re-polling in six polling stations of PS-128.
“The police deployment should be ensured within the limits of fixed polling stations and their surrounding areas, while reserved and anti-riot platoons should also be kept at standby,” the inspector-general was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the central police office.
“Plain-clothes policemen should be deployed in areas for advance intelligence collection and they should also be briefed about immediate sharing of intelligence reports to avoid any untoward incident. The patrolling and snap-checking should be made effective within the precincts of all police stations on re-polling day,” said the IG.