BADIN/SANGHAR: Polling for four union councils and two town committees of Badin district was held in an absolutely peaceful and orderly manner.

While the counting of votes at a few polling stations in Badin was under way till the filing of the report at 9pm on Saturday, trends in most areas suggested that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidates were much ahead of their rivals.

Strong contingents of police along with commandos backed by Rangers personnel maintained a strict watch on miscreants in and around all polling stations while army troops remained standby. However, no untoward incident took place in the district despite political tension involving contesting rivals and their supporters.

The polling in the entire Badin district was originally scheduled for Nov 19, 2015 but it was postponed in the four union councils and two town committees due to security and other reasons.

The turn out in the left-out areas initially remained thin but turned brisk as the day progressed. Election officials put the overall turnout at between 60 and 65 per cent. Long queues of voters were seen at most polling stations in Saeedpur, Ali Bahadur Shah, Talhar, Kario Ghanwar and Tando Bago in the second half of the day.

A very small number of voters went to most polling stations till the afternoon. Political quarters attributed the situation to fear factor, saying that firing and an arson attack during the Nov 19 partial polling in the district kept voters away from the process. Even some candidates did not allow their women family members to go out and cast their votes. However, the peaceful process until the noon encouraged people to use their right to franchise. The presence of Rangers personnel at sensitive points helped restore people’s confidence.

Barring a few incidents of confusion causing some delay in the polling process at certain places, no disruption was reported till the closure time.

At a women polling station in Talhar town, trouble was reported when a packet of 100 blank ballot papers with serial number 1,900-2,000 was found missing. The matter was amicably sorted out by the presiding officer concerned.

Interestingly, no one at any polling station came out with a complaint of rigging which political analysts termed ‘unusual’ and ‘encouraging’.

With memories of Daraza firing incident quite fresh in their minds, Sanghar residents went to the polls on Saturday fearing a repeat of similar clashes but much to their relief, election process mostly remained peaceful throughout the day.

The first phase of local government election in Sanghar on Oct 31 was postponed when armed attackers opened fire on a polling station in Daraza killing 12 people and injuring several others. Most of the victims were members of the Hur Jamaat and activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and belonged to Sanghar district.

The traditional enthusiasm was missing in the election and overall turnout at both men’s and women’s polling booths remained relatively thin.

The election proceedings commenced and concluded at scheduled time, with no untoward incident reported from across the district, except a few minor clashes at Kaman Thaheem in Tando Adam taluka and Ranhaoo in Achro Thar, in which five people were injured.

PML-F boycotted election at Koro Khan Umrani union council, a newly formed UC in Shahdadpur taluka.

PML-F local leader Samano Dahri, who was also a candidate for chairman, announced the boycott, alleging that locations of most polling stations had been changed at the 11th hour and votes of their supporters had been shifted to other areas. The candidates had arranged vehicles for voters to take them to polling stations from distant villages.

The administration had made extraordinary security arrangements on the day while Rangers personnel were deployed in the most sensitive polling stations.

To ensure foolproof security arrangements in Sanghar town, wing commander of Rangers Colonel Shahid and Shaheed Benazirabad DIG Farhat Junejo visited polling stations in the town.

Senior leader of PML-F Jam Madad Ali told journalists at Jam Nawaz Ali that police and PPP leaders threatened their polling agents at many polling stations.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2016