UMERKOT: Five Pak­istan Peoples Party (PPP) supporters were booked after Rangers personnel detained them and recovered a huge number of what was described as “fake ballot papers” from near Pakistan Chowk here on Tuesday.

PPP’s NA-220 candidate Nawab Yousuf Talpur later told a press conference that the seized stuff was “sample ballots” and not “fake ballots” and that they were meant for educating voters and not rigging the election. He demanded immediate release of the PPP supporters.

However, Lal Malhi, the chief polling agent of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, insisted that “10,000 fake ballot papers of the constituency were published to rig the election and seized by the security personnel while they were being transported to the desired polling stations”.

The Rangers personnel handed over the suspects — Anwar Soomro, Hakum, Iqbal, Kangar and Nawab — to the Umerkot police for interrogation.

Umerkot SHO Imtiaz Thebo confirmed that the suspects were booked and lodged in the lock-up. He said that the consignment of “fake ballot papers” were recovered from a jeep and was intended to be transported to Borrabah village.

Umerkot SSP Captain Ameer Saud Magsi said that the matter was being investigated in the light of the claim and counter-claim by the rival sides. “An FIR will be registered against the suspects only after it is established that the seized stuff was meant for rigging,” he added.

Senior PPP leader Nawab Talpur told local reporters that it came to his utter surprise that the security personnel could not differentiate between sample and genuine ballot papers. Nor did they know that publishing of such samples in election season to educate illiterate voters was a common practice in rural areas.

He regretted that the seizure of the material and detention of PPP supporters tarnished the party’s image and caused harassment to voters in the constituency, besides putting the detained men in deep trouble.

He urged the Election Comm­ission of Pakistan (ECP) to take notice of the episode, arguing that it was simply impossible to use such an ordinary material as ballot papers in the presence of highly skilled election staff.

Lal Malhi rejected the contention and insisted that such things had been used to rig the previous elections. He also alleged that the area police, after taking the seized consignment into custody, replaced the fake ballot papers with electioneering material to demolish the case. He further alleged that the detained suspects were government employees and the seized stuff was published by PPP’s PS-52 candidate Syed Ali Mardan Shah.

Former CM Arbab Ghulam Rahim’s chief polling agent for his PS-52 constituency, Farooq Sattar, accompanied Lal Malhi during his talk to the media.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2018