Workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement collect their poll-related matarial after a clash with activists of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (Haqiqi) outside a polling station on Thursday.—PPI
Workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement collect their poll-related matarial after a clash with activists of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (Haqiqi) outside a polling station on Thursday.—PPI

KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party candidate Ghulam Murtaza Baloch won the by-election on PS-127 with comfortable margin against the closest rival, Waseem Ahmed, of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, unofficial results showed late Thursday evening.

Officials in the parties and the election staff at the polling stations informed Dawn about the final results of the first by-election after the MQM chief’s controversial speech that put the party into a political crisis – showing the PPP candidate won it by a margin of more than 6,000 votes.

The unofficially results announced by 134 polling stations compiled by the parties show Mr Baloch obtained 21,671 votes against Mr Ahmed’s 15,670 votes. PTI’s Nadeem Memon was distant third who secured around 6,000 votes.

The seat fell vacant after MQM lawmaker Ashfaq Mangi resigned and joined Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party.

Violence, clashes between MQM and Muttahida blamed for low turnout

Voters poorly responded to the contest as the turnout was hardly 20pc, unofficial figures show.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah congratulated the winning candidate saying, “This victory belongs to peace and prosperity”.

The PS-127 constituency is a collage of the city’s urban and rural areas which fall in the limits of district municipal corporations of Malir and Korangi. It includes Darsano Chhanno, Malir, Khokhrapar, Jaffer Tayyar Society, Brohi Goth, Sachhal Goth, Asu Goth, parts of Saudabad, Malir Cantonment and vast swathes of Gadap Town. The seat had been won by the Muttahida and Pakistan Peoples Party in the past. The former won it thrice since the 2004 by-election following the assassination of PPP leader Abdullah Murad Baloch who had won the seat in 2002. More recently the constituency fell vacant when Muttahida lawmaker Ashfaq Mangi resigned and joined PSP.

While the total number of registered voters in the constituency is 207,467, including 91,355 women, visits to various polling stations showed that the turnout in urban settlements was low as some of these areas remained tense due to clashes between Muttahida and Mohajir Qaumi Movement.

The police authorities said the “politically motivated clashes” remained the key cause of low turnout in PS-127 by-polls on Thursday.

Muttahida senator Nasreen Jalil alleged that the violence was ‘targeted’ against her party to force them to stay indoors. She said her party had support of more than 70pc voters in urban parts of the constituency.

In the rural setting, voters were seen much eager to cast their votes. Those areas were mostly dominated by the PPP flags though the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, too, was seen visible there.

During a visit to the Asu Goth maternity home polling station, where 814 votes were registered, it was noted that 170 had been cast by early afternoon. PPP leader Rashid Hussain Rabbani expressed his satisfaction over the proceedings. “Polling is peaceful and his party has no complaints,” he said.

But the turnout at polling stations in urban settlements was low, as a presiding officer at a polling station told Dawn that just 25 men and 10 women had cast their votes by 1pm – five hours after the polling began.

Similarly only 22 women and 89 men had cast their votes at Oxford school polling station No 82 by 11am. By the same time, Monotechnical School polling station saw 11 male and eight female voters, while 60 of the total 800 voters had turned up at the Mohammadan Public School by 1pm.

Meanwhile, the paramilitary force apprehended a woman belonging to a political party over charges of casting ‘fake vote’ at a polling station in Murad Memon Goth. The Rangers spokesperson said legal action was being taken against her under powers of class one magistrate given to the Rangers under the election laws.

Karachi commissioner Aijaz Ahmed Khan, Rangers director-general Maj Gen Bilal Akber, and senior police officials visited various polling stations.

Besides, police arrested at least six workers of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement and seized 13 vehicles following their clashes with Muttahida workers in the Malir City area, said Malir SSP Rao Anwar.

The Malir City police said skirmishes between the MQM and Muttahida workers erupted outside Govt Monotechnical College in Urdu Nagar where an election camp of the Muttahida was destroyed. Sticks were used in the clashes which left at least four people injured. The Rangers and police rushed to the spot and controlled the situation but violence revisited the area after some time when MQM (Haqiqi) workers riding motorbikes took out a rally violating the ban that had been in place on rallies in the area. Subsequently, the police chased the fleeing suspects and arrested six of them. Besides, 13 motorbikes were impounded. A Malir City police officer said a case was registered against the six persons under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of Pakistan Penal Code.

“Clashes between workers of Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Mohajir Qaumi Movement [formerly MQM-Haqiqi] erupted in at least three areas of Malir City and Khokhrapar,” said Karachi police chief Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar.

Scenes of fist fighting and exchange of hot words between other parties were also seen at various polling stations but a few strongholds of the Muttahida saw more violence despite heavy security arrangements in place spearheaded by Pakistan Rangers in and outside 134 polling stations. The situation had been tense since Wednesday night when a bulldozer in Buffer Zone and three buses in Landhi, Federal B Area and Napier were set on fire. On Thursday evening, a coaster belonging to a factory, off the National Highway,was intercepted in Shah Latif Town by some armed motorcyclists who set fire to it. Police booked several suspects with undisclosed political affiliation in cases over the charges of arson. The Sindh police chief announced a reward of Rs100,000 for information leading to the arrest of culprits involved in arson attacks, said the police spokesperson.

This time some 66 of the 134 polling stations were declared ‘most sensitive’ while the remaining polling stations, except 12, were declared sensitive. To keep the polling process smooth, the paramilitary Rangers had been given magisterial power.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2016