LAHORE: The first phase of local bodies’ elections in 12 districts of Punjab was held on Saturday in a generally peaceful atmosphere but amid mismanagement on the part of election authorities, with PML-N dominating the scene.
Two people were killed in Faisalabad in post-poll violence. One of them belonged to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the other said to be a supporter of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was attacked at the minister’s outhouse.
Earlier in the day, sporadic clashes between supporters of candidates on one hand and between supporters and police on the other were reported from all the districts. But there was no casualty as the ban on carrying and display of arms worked well and anyone found to be carrying weapons, particularly around polling stations, was immediately nabbed by police.
In Okara, PTI activists snatched ballot boxes from polling staff, brought them outside the polling station and destroyed the polled ballots.
Punjab government spokesman Zaeem Qadri said 27 incidents of violence were reported from all the 12 districts. Around 200 people were arrested, including a former PPP provincial minister Ashraf Sohna, who has recently joined the PTI.
A presiding officer, Mohammad Shareef, died of cardiac arrest soon after the voting process started in a union council of Gujrat. At some places, polling staff was manhandled by candidates.
Errors and omissions
Mismanagement on the part of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was visible as it had to postpone polling at many places because either election symbol of a candidate was missing from ballot papers or it had been allotted to another candidate.
At some polling stations, the polling process was conducted in the light of mobile phones for want of power supply.
In Sangla Hill area of Faisalabad, polling started after 11am as the polling staff could not reach the polling stations on time.
Violations of the code of conduct were visible everywhere as party camps had been set up hardly 10 yards away from polling stations against the recommended distance of at least 200 yards.
Similarly, the ban on carrying mobile phones inside polling station was openly violated.
A faux pas in the polling arrangements was witnessed at some places. For example, a polling station was established in a private hospital in Lahore.
Reports of bogus voting were rare but there were some complaints about irregularities in voter lists.
The ECP said it had received 51 complaints of different natures.
Voter turnout was estimated at over 50 per cent except in urban areas of Lahore where it was likely to be around 30pc.
The ruling PML-N was dominating in all the districts with independents, mostly disgruntled members of the party who were denied party tickets, taking the second position.
The PPP was facing a complete rout. Failing to pitch its own candidates at most places, it was supporting every candidate who was contesting against the PML-N.
The Jamaat-i-Islami also failed in making its presence felt in any of the districts.
The PML-Q was seeing losing its control even in Gujrat, the hometown of former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and former chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.
The Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Dr Tahirul Qadri contested only in a small number of constituencies. It boycotted polling in the evening while alleging that police and polling staff were rigging the vote in favour of the PML-N.
Ahsan Raza compiled this report while Wajih Ahmad in Lahore Shakeel Ahmed in Multan, Muhammad Saleem in Faisalabad, Gulzar Baig in Vehari, Nabeel Anwar Dhakku in Chakwal, Waseem Ashraf Butt in Gujrat, Gulzar Ahmed Chaudhry in Bahawalnagar and Aslam Piracha in Okara contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2015