KARACHI: Eleven people were killed and at least 15 others wounded in a gunbattle between rival political groups during polling for the local government institutions in Daraza Sharif Union Council – which also houses the shrine of revered Sufi Saint Sachal Sarmast – in Khairpur district on Saturday.

The incident caused the authorities to call out the army which was already on standby as eight districts in Sindh went to the poll in the first of three phases of the LG elections, officials said.

Police said the clash was triggered by a dispute between two groups — one supporting the ruling PPP and the other backing the PML-F — belonging to the Junejo caste in Waryo Junejo village.

“At least 11 people died and 15 others wounded in the clash,” said Pir Mohammad Shah, superintendent of police, Khairpur district while speaking to Dawn.

“The army was already here [in Khairpur] on standby but after this incident they are taking care of security on our request in all sensitive areas,” said the district returning officer, Munawwar Ali Matyani.

The PML-F claimed that six of its activists who died in the incident hailed from Sanghar district and included Noor Hassan Khaskheli, an adviser to former chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim.

Sujawal, Sinjhoro and Jhol towns were shut following the incident.

Sindh IGP Ghulam Haider Jamali, according to a police spokesperson, has constituted a three-member committee headed by additional IG of the counter-terrorism department Dr Sanaullah Abbasi to investigate the incident.

Election-related brawls and clashes in other parts of the district, including Pir jo Goth, Magarji, Thari Mirwah and Faiz Ganj, also left scores of activists as well as voters of the two parties and independent groups injured.

Observers said security fear forced most women to remain indoors while in Jacobabad city, overall voter turnout was a quarter of the total registered voters.

In Shikarpur district, 42 people were injured in clashes among activists of rival parties at 15 polling stations. At times, polling at these stations had to be stopped for hours.

Incidents of fist-fighting and skirmishes were also reported from Sukkur and Kashmore districts where at least 30 people were reported injured.

Reports suggested up to 50 per cent voter turnout on an average was witnessed in the eight districts with the minimum being in Shikarpur and Sukkur (40pc) and the highest in Kashmore and Ghotki (up to 70pc).

PPP fielded its candidates on nearly all of the 2,333 seats in Sukkur and Larkana divisions. Candidates from the PML-F, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and several local groups, besides independents, were among more than 10,000 contestants.

Initial unofficial results show that the PPP is leading in all districts, save Shikarpur, where it has a neck and neck fight with the PML-F, Maher group and independents. The Larkana PPP president and general secretary were much ahead of their close rivals and the party was set to clinch the slot of the city mayor, the unofficial results suggested.

The Unnar group dominated in Dokri town committee of Larkana while Safdar Abbasi’s candidates Qurban Abbasi, Badar Abbasi and Saeed Shaikh lost in the contest.

In Sukkur city, the MQM was trailing behind the PPP and independents on many seats and observers saw a rise in the ratio of independents.

Senator Islamuddin Shaikh’s son Arsalan Shaikh was leading while former PPP MPA lost the seat of chairman to a disgruntled party member in the Old Sukkur area. MQM’s Farid Siddiqui was the first who was unofficially declared victorious on the union committee-5 in Sukkur.

Shikarpur showed mixed results where Agha Masehuddin Khan Durrani of the PPP and Arif Mahar of the Mahar group, who are tipped to head the Shikarpur District Council, won their seats in the unofficial results.

Waseem Shamsi in Sukkur, M.B. Kalhoro in Larkana, Rehmatullah Soomro in Shikarpur and Mansoor Mirani in Khairpur contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2015

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