ISLAMABAD, Aug 22: Well before the release of unofficial results, the mobile phones of PML-N candidate was switched off, indicating that things had gone the wrong way for him, or in other words, a clear indication came by 10pm that Asad Umar had retained his party’s seat - NA-48.
On the other hand, the loud sound of jubilations around Asad Umar made it impossible for him to respond to any phone calls, because the unofficial results compiled by the party workers and the media showed him winning.
The officially announced results declared at around 11pm showed that the PTI candidate Asad Umar, who also enjoyed the backing of Jamaat-i-Islami, had bagged 47,650 votes against 40,566 by Ashraf Gujjar of the PML-N.
It had been a hard day for the party workers of both sides. In a stark contrast to the May 11 general elections, when the people of Islamabad had literally thronged polling stations, the by-election for NA-48 literally failed to generate an election fever in the city on a hot, sultry day.
There was hardly a polling station in the city where one could see voters making beelines, as they did on the eve of the general elections.
At a polling station set up in Islamabad Model College for Girls, G-10/4, out of 1,500 total male voters only 500 had cast their votes till 4pm.
Talking to Dawn, the presiding officer of the polling station said throughout the day voters had dropped in ones and twos, who hardly created any problem for the polling staff to process their votes.
“Low voter turnout is not unusual during the by-elections. People don’t expect any change as a result of these elections, that’s precisely the reason voters have preferred to stay back home,” commented the presiding officer of another polling station at G-7/3. He also reported low turnout throughout the day.
The other major factor for the low turnout, especially in the first half of the day, was that Thursday was not a holiday for the majority of Islamabad residents.
The government had declared Thursday as a holiday for the local departments only, and incidentally for Islamabad this covered only the employees of the education department and the CDA.
A vast majority of employees in Islamabad, especially in NA-48, work with the federal government departments, and many belong to the private sector, which too were operational on Thursday.
Rauf Jamal, a Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf supporter from G-10, who along with other party supporters was busy calling people to cast their votes, said a full public holiday would have helped improve the turnout.
“Fearing defeat, the government declared a half public holiday in the capital city, and in this hot and humid day why would one leave his/office to cast their vote.
In case of a complete public holiday, I personally believe people would have taken time out for polling,” argued Mr Jamal, who was impatiently dialling numbers of voters in his area, pursuing them to vote for his party’s candidate.
Low turnout was also caused due to the lack of enthusiasm among the parties during the campaigning as they did not hold rallies and massive gatherings.
“By-elections do lack the kind of vigour visible in the general elections but this time Islamabad has been totally dull,” said Usman Khan, a resident of I-9.
However, the political workers managed to bring out their voters in the second half of the day and despite the internal strife in the PML-N ranks, Ashraf Gujjar was able to make a comparatively impressive finish.
Out of the 292,142 registered voters, a record 59.55 per cent had cast their votes on May 11, in this constituency.