SHIKARPUR: Although there are five contestants in the fray for the PS-11 Shikarpur by-election being held today (Thursday), the main rivals are Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh -- whose switch over to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and subsequent resignation from the assembly seat set the by-election process in motion — and Nasir Mehmood Soomro — son of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) assassinated Sindh general secretary Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro.

The other contestants are Mohammad Azam Brohi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and independent candidates Zahid Hussain Mirani and Faraz Ahmed Shaikh.

The electioneering came to an end a day before the polls with the rivals claiming thier easy win over others but analysts see a tough completion between the PPP and JUI-F and avoid predicting victory for either of them before results.

Both Mr Shaikh and his rival Mr Soomro have made alliances with different political parties and religious and nationalist outfits and heads of different communities in frenetic attempts to ensure their win, which has created an interesting situation but made the ordinary voter a little confused over his options.

They have done their best to woo voters by demonstrating their strength on the streets in large rallies and public meetings and both claimed to clinch victory in election.

The administration has beefed up security for the polls day and declared as sensitive all polling stations.

There are 135,435 voters in the constituency for whom 105 polling stations, 41 each for men and women and 23 for both, have been set up.

Since the rivals have created an incendiary environment in the lead up to the election by having resort to much mud-slinging at each other mostly over personal matters and there are reports of political interference by MNAs, MPAs, ministers and government functionaries, the Election Commission of Pakistan has declared all the polling stations as sensitive.

In addition, the commission has, in response to the demands by the contestants, directed deployment of Rangers and police at all polling stations and patrolling of streets by army personnel. The army jawans will remain on the standby during the polls day, ready to respond to emergencies and ensure free, fair and impartial election.

District Election Commissioner Syed Tanveer Hyder Zaidi in this regard convened a meeting the other day with all the contestants at deputy commissioner’s office and informed them about the code of conduct for the by-election.

The candidates put their signatures on the code and agreed to comply with it.

According to the code, the electioneering was to end on Oct 18 at 12.00 pm and no MNA, senator, MPA, minister or government functionary was allowed to participate or interfere in the election campaign or process.

The meeting was informed that the presiding officers and Rangers had been delegated powers of the first class magistrate to run the polling process under the provisions of the code and punish the violators on the spot.

The code allows only presiding officers to use mobile phone inside the polling stations and stops all others including the polling staff from using their mobile phones.

The meeting which formed four committees to monitor the voting process on the polls day was attended among others by District Returning Officer Noor Muhammad Mari, Shikarpur Deputy Commissioner Sikandar Ali Khushk, Colonel Asim of Rangers Wing-31, SSP Umar Tufail and other district officers.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2016

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