KARACHI: The general elections in Karachi, which largely remained peaceful and organised, hit a major snag late in the day when, on Wednesday evening, all contesting parties, except the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, came up with strong protest and questioned the process in which their polling agents were “forced out of polling stations” and results were held back.
The parties alleged that the results, which started pouring in from different polling stations after 7pm, came to a halt after 9pm.
First it was the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), which blew the whistle when its leader Faisal Subzwari at a hurriedly called press conference raised the question about the counting process.
“An hour after the polling, our polling agents were pushed out of the polling stations and were denied to be made part of counting,” he said.
“Then it emerged from the officials at the polling stations that Form 45 is not available so handwritten results of each polling station were handed over to our agents. We strongly protest against it, which is not less than rigging.”
‘Our polling agents were pushed out during counting’
Then came the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) with the same allegations and one after another all parties echoed the same line. Leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), including Leader of the Opposition in Senate Sherry Rahman, Raza Rabbani and Taj Haider held a press conference for the same reason.
Sindh chapter president of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rahman, while levelling allegations of rigging, demanded immediate action from the “institutions concerned” to address the MMA’s grievances.
Before the controversy hit the electoral process, according to initial and incomplete results of general seats of the Sindh Assembly on which elections were held, the PPP was leading on 71, the GDA on 10, PTI on 21, independents on two and the MQM-P with 18 seats.
The Sindh Assembly comprises 130 general seats but due to return of Mir Shabbir Ahmed Bijarani from PS-6 Kashmore constituency unopposed and postponement of election on PS-87 because of the death of a candidate, on Wednesday 22,391,244 voters from Sindh were eligible to elect 128 members of the provincial assembly and 61 members of the National Assembly on general seats from the province.
The Sindh Assembly comprises 168 legislators of whom 130 MPAs are elected directly while 38 seats were reserved for indirect elections of 29 women/professionals and nine for non-Muslims. For elections on 128 general seats, there were 2,252 candidates in the run for the Sindh Assembly while 824 against 61 seats in the NA.
According to another results from PS-104, out of 88 polling stations, the ballots of one polling station, which were counted till the filing of this report, PTI’s Mansoor Ahmed was leading, bagging 202 votes followed by PPP’s Saeed Ghani, who got 181 votes.
Similarly, another initial report from PS-19 Ghotki indicated that out of 150 polling stations results of 39 indicated that Ali Gohar of the GDA was leading with 3,853 votes while Abdul Bari of the PPP was trailing with 3,715 votes.
In the polling the turnout of youths and female voters was witnessed higher than before. In urban centres the turnout remained low while long queues were witnessed in the localities with congested population of lower-middle class and workers.
Except the PPP, PTI, PML-N, TLP and MMA on many polling stations, the candidates were found short of workers to keep an eye on the voters’ identification and ensure counting of votes.
For want of transport at many polling stations in urban centres, voters had to face hardship in reaching the polling stations as most of the public vehicles were hired by law enforcement agencies for election duty.
The polling started at most of the polling stations at 8am and the doors were shut at 6pm, allowing all those to cast their votes who were present on the premises of the polling stations. Police and Rangers personnel were deployed inside and outside the polling stations, who were assisted by army personnel.
In the interior of Sindh, the competition was witnessed between the PPP and the GDA and at places tension was witnessed at election camps set up at a distance from the polling stations. In urban centres workers and party sympathisers’ hustle and bustle was found particularly at election camps of the PPP, MQM, GDA, TLP and MMA.
Turnout recorded at 40 to 44pc
According to unofficial estimates, the overall turnout of voters was recorded at between 40 and 44 per cent, which is lower than the last general elections held in 2013, when the turnout was over 50pc.
Spokesmen for the PPP, MQM and PML-N were found complaining that the Election Commission Sindh, which had set up a complaint cell to redress complaints, failed to respond to complaints filed by them.
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018