NAUSHAHRO FEROZE, Dec 4: Amid allegations of rigging and violation of a code of conduct set by the Election Commission of Pakistan by all the main contesting parties, the by-election on a Sindh Assembly seat (PS-21 Naushahro Feroze-III) — the last by-poll in Sindh before the next general election — was conducted peacefully without any major incident of violence on Tuesday.
The polling process that started at 8am at all the 129 polling stations covering Kandiaro, Halani, Mehrabpur and other adjoining towns remained suspended for half an hour at three polling stations (No: 97, 100 and 101, Pakka Ghangra, Mir Mohammed Siyal and Allah Dino Wassayo) due to altercations between agents of the Pakistan People’s Party and the National People’s Party over voter facilitating slips inscribed with party flags, but the matter was settled and polling resumed.
Strict security arrangements had been made on the occasion, with a large number of police officials being deployed at polling stations and Rangers personnel patrolling the constituency during the polling.
The Kandiaro police, meanwhile, claimed to have arrested two National People’s Party workers Abdul Sattar and Aijaz (brothers) and seized weapons while four others escaped during a raid on a restaurant. The police later booked six persons in two separate FIRs (221 and 222) under Sections 324 and 353 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 13-D of Arms Ordinance and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Condemning the arrest of party workers, NPP Chairman Ghulam Murtaza Khan Jatoi told journalists that the workers arrested in Kandiaro were innocent.
He said Rangers and police raided a camp established at Halani and arrested 10 party workers. He alleged that four of their agents were picked up from a polling station (No 52) set up in Government Primary School Ali Murad Kalhoro.
He said the Election Commission of Pakistan had assured them that Rangers would be deployed at each police station in the constituency but they were not deployed. He alleged that the ECP and the police were not neutral and rigging was done with complete involvement of government machinery.
Syed Zafar Ali Shah, a relative of independent candidate Syed Zohaib Shah, alleged that their polling agents were forcibly taken out from polling stations 86, 87, 88, 89, 91 and 93.
He alleged that a police officer took away ballot boxes from various polling stations and escaped towards the kutcha area.
He recalled that Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim in a meeting held at Naushahro Feroze had assured them that Rangers would be deployed at each and every polling station to ensure free and fair elections. He said the CEC also wrote a letter to the Rangers director-general, directing him to deploy personnel at each polling station and depute them for carrying the polling material to and from polling stations.
He demanded that the ECP cancel the results and announce fresh elections on the seat.
Advocate Ziaul Hassan Lanjar, chief polling agent of the PPP, alleged that the NPP violated the code of conduct set by the election commission. He said that NPP workers tried to stop polling at various polling stations and cast fake votes.
He alleged that the agents using voters’ slips had NPP flags, symbols and other signs printed on them which was a clear violation of the code of conduct. He claimed that they had caught a number of people with printed ballot papers and that they would take up the matter with the ECP.
A number of political leaders, including MNAs and MPAs of the PPP, PML-Functional, SUP, JSM and others including MNA Shagufta Jummani, Rafiq Jamali, Nawab Wasan, Talat Mahesar, MPA Ghulam Qadir Chandio, Chaudhry Tariq Masood Arain, Senator Aajiz Dhamrah, Imtiaz Shaikh, Jam Madad Ali, Rana Abdul Sattar, Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah and Riaz Chandio visited the constituency.
The seat fell vacant after Syed Ahmed Ali Shah of the Pakistan People’s Party was disqualified due to dual nationality.
The main contestants were Syed Sarfaraz Shah of the PPP, Syed Abrar Shah of the NPP and Syed Zohaib Shah, an independent candidate.
There were a total of 119,884 registered voters, including 65,173 male and 54,711 female voters.
A low turnout of voters was witnessed in the morning, but it improved after 1pm. Counting of votes was on at all the polling stations at the time of the filing of this report in the evening.