Polling ends in NA-120 after large voter turnout, counting underway

Published September 17, 2017
Voters queue to cast their ballots in a by-election in Lahore. —AFP
Voters queue to cast their ballots in a by-election in Lahore. —AFP
PML-N's Begum Kulsoom Nawaz (left) and PTI's Yasmeen Rashid.
PML-N's Begum Kulsoom Nawaz (left) and PTI's Yasmeen Rashid.

The counting of votes is currently underway after polling for the NA-120 seat, which was left vacant by Nawaz Sharif's ouster in the Panama verdict, ended in the Lahore constituency after it continued uninterrupted throughout the day.

Long queues were seen outside the polling stations as people came out to cast their vote as early as 8am, DawnNews reported.

A total of 44 candidates are contesting for the National Assembly seat from Lahore. Pakistan Army personnel are supervising the polling process. The first vote of the election was cast at 8am on Sunday morning, DawnNews reported; and continued until 5pm.

Earlier, reports surfaced that media personnel were not being allowed inside the polling stations. The army's media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations, however, issued a statement saying that those media officials with ECP accreditation cards are visiting the stations. "No restrictions imposed by the army," read the statement.

Voters complain of delays

A large number of voters turned up to choose their candidate in what has been predicted to be a close competition between PML-N and PTI. According to DawnNews, voters complained that the process inside the polling stations took too long and that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should take notice.

Some of the polling stations were reported to be without electricity, causing inconvenience to the voters.

Voters also took to Twitter to complain of the alleged delay in the polling process, to which Maryam Nawaz replied, "Don't worry. Insha'Allah we will win."

Only the voters are being allowed inside the polling stations by Rangers and army personnel, reported DawnNews, adding that all the stations in the constituency have been declared "sensitive". To facilitate the registered voters, the ECP linked the 220 polling stations with Google Maps.

Tempers flare between PTI, PML-N activists

Hours after polling started, activists of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and PML-N almost came to blows at Cooper Road, chanting slogans against each other. Law enforcement personnel, however, warned the political workers of baton charge, following which the activists dispersed.

PTI's candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid speaks to the media.
PTI's candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid speaks to the media.

Candidates review voting process

PTI's candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid, while speaking to the media on Sunday, expressed satisfaction at how the polling process was being carried out. She urged registered voters, particularly women, to come and cast their vote so as to "save the future of their offspring".

Faisal Mir of PPP, however, expressed his displeasure over the voting, alleging that the ECP was inclined in favour of the ruling PML-N. During a visit to a polling station, he said that the election is being rigged and that the PPP agents are forcefully being taken out of polling booths.

ECP official told DawnNews that no complaints about the voting process had been received.

All eyes on NA-120

This constituency has thrice elected Nawaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister since 1990. Kulsoom Nawaz is defending the PML-N stronghold as a candidate of the ruling party while PTI's Dr Rashid and PPP's Mir have also vowed to win the constituency.

Read: NA-120 to give verdict on ex-PM’s disqualification

The ECP had set up 220 polling stations — 103 for male voters, 98 for women and 19 joint polling stations for men and women voters. There were 321,786 voters, including 142,144 female voters. The ECP had delivered 350,000 ballot papers to the election staff.

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, Biometric Voter Verification Machines were also being tested in the constituency. Some 30,000 voters cast their votes on biometric machines. More than 100 biometric machines were installed at 39 polling stations.

Among the candidates were Jamaat-i-Islami's (JI) Ziaur Rehman Ansari and the newly formed Milli Muslim League's independent candidate, Sheikh Mohammad Yaqoob.

At least 29,000 votes placed in voter lists of the constituency had been deemed "unverified". “The hard copy of 29,000-plus voters list given to the PTI on payment carried neither fingerprints, nor CNIC numbers nor family numbers,” Dr Rashid had claimed earlier.

The ECP had told the Lahore High Court that the verification of votes was the responsibility of the National Database and Registration Authority. The ECP on Saturday had finally stated that the fingerprint records of more than 29,000 voters were not available with the Nadra. On the directions of the Lahore High Court, the ECP said it had made the list of those voters public.

Wide-scale campaigning

Amid door-to-door campaigns, rallies, development work, sloganeering, local brawls, blatant violation of the election code of conduct, and accusations being hurled left right and centre, the campaigns of all major political parties had come to a close, officially, on Friday night.

The PML-N’s campaign, led by Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, was dead set against the apex court’s decision under the ex-PM’s slogan: ‘Mujhe Kyun Nikala’.

“The by-election result will serve as a litmus test to see how the people view the Supreme Court’s decision,” said an observer.

Besides wooing voters in the constituency, the PTI and PML-N had also run their campaigns on social media. Messages recorded by PTI’s Imran Khan and PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique were circulated on WhatsApp, while several women activists of the PTI had called constituency voters on their cell phones urging them to vote for their party.

PML-N and PTI supporters clash at Ganga Ram Chowk.

Biometric polling machines being used in NA-120, the first such instance in country's election history.

The supporters of both PML-N and PTI chant slogans against each other.

Soldiers help polling officers carry election materials received from the ECP office in Lahore. —AFP
Soldiers help polling officers carry election materials received from the ECP office in Lahore. —AFP

A voter poses after casting vote. —DawnNews
A voter poses after casting vote. —DawnNews

Voters queue outside a polling station to cast their vote. —DawnNews
Voters queue outside a polling station to cast their vote. —DawnNews

Army personnel patrol the NA-120 constituency. —DawnNews
Army personnel patrol the NA-120 constituency. —DawnNews


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