UMERKOT, June 1: A large number men and women braved the scorching heat of Thar on Saturday to cast their vote at 47 polling stations where on the orders of the Election Commission of Pakistan re-election was held under strict security, amid voters’ complaints that their votes had been transferred to polling stations 10 to 25 kilometres away from their villages, though no rigging complaints were received from any quarter.
The ECP had announced re-polling on two national assembly constituencies, NA-229 and 230, and three provincial assembly constituencies, PS-61, 62 and 63 of Tharparkar district for June 1 after polling material had been set on fire and polling booths had been ransacked by miscreants.
There was a tough competition between Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pir Noor Muhammad Shah Jeelani of the PPPP on NA-230. Similarly, a tough contest was expected between Dost Muhammad Rahimoo of the PPPP and Ghulam Haider Samejo of the People’s Muslim League on PS-63.
Polling staff arrived at all the polling stations in time and voting started at all the polling stations as per the schedule. To maintain law and order and prevent rigging, 15 army men, six Rangers and 20 police personnel were deployed at each polling station. In the presence of such security, no untoward incident was reported from any area.
This reporter visited the Gadhro, Baghal, Meran Jo Vero and Gogasar polling stations in PS-63, where long queues of women were witnessed. Both men and women had queued up under the scorching sun cheerfully, and it was expected that the turnout in the re-poll would be much higher than such re-polls held in other areas of the country.
Voters Jalal Nohri and Arbab Abdul Malik talking to this reporter complained that due to a National Authority for Database and Registration Authority fault villagers were unable to exercise their right to vote in their village or nearby polling stations and had to travel between 10km and 25km because their names were mistakenly entered in other blocks before the May 11 elections.
Giving examples, they said voters of Soomran Jo Par and Vasand Je Veri had to cast their ballot in Baghal, at a distance of 20km.
Residents of Baghal, Jeyan Je Dhani, Faquir Ramzan Je Dhani and others had to go to Saer, 10km from Baghal, to exercise their right to vote, but not at the polling station of their village.
They said that was not only at those polling stations, but in whole Thar such complaints were reported, which inconvenienced the voters.
A number of other voters complained that they were implicated in false cases, and only in Baghal village 113 persons had been booked in false cases. Voters said that on May 11 at a number of ballot boxes were taken away and set on fire, therefore they were fearful. But in the presence of a good number of law-enforcement personnel, they had no fear to cast their ballot.
Media persons were this time allowed to enter the polling booths to see the polling process.
At many polling stations voters complained that the process of casting votes was quite slow, which might have affected the voter turnout.
Re-polling in Mithi Re-polling at four polling stations of Tharparkar district, including NA-229 (Mithi- Diplo) and 43 polling stations of NA-230 (PS-63Chhachhro and PS-62 Nagarparkar), was conducted smoothly on Saturday.
The overall law and order situation at various polling stations remained under control and no untoward incident was reported from any area.
The turnout of voters at various polling stations was estimated to be more than 55 per cent.
According to initial unofficial reports, of the 3,809 registered votes at four polling stations of NA-229, Faqir Sher Mohammad Bilalani of the PPP had bagged 1,774 votes while Peoples Muslim League candidate Arbab Togachi had obtained 731 votes.
Mr Bilalani and Arbab Togachi had secured 84,818 and 84,191 votes, respectively, on May 11.