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Polling staff complain of scanty arrangements

Updated July 26, 2018

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A presiding officer works in the light of a torch due to loadshedding at a polling station in NA-132. — Online
A presiding officer works in the light of a torch due to loadshedding at a polling station in NA-132. — Online

LAHORE: “We have no break and no support staff. We all have been thirsty since morning, but no one provided us with water. Can anyone explain why has this happened to us?” protested assistant presiding officer (APO) Muhammad Rizwan at polling station No.72 of NA-131 (DHA), where Imran Khan and Khwaja Saad Rafique were the main contestants.

Logistically, there were poor arrangements at various polling stations in Lahore, as most of the officials were found complaining against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the officials of civil administration. Till 12:30pm, of total 1,700 voters, only 300 managed to cast their votes at the polling station No.72 established at the DHA degree college.

“We are surprised that no one is offering to us even tea since we are working continuously. How will we spend the entire day since the situation is affecting our work,” Rizwan complained. Tariq Javaid, a presiding officer at polling station No. 73, also lodged similar complaints.

Many polling stations set up in congested places; no refreshments provided

It was observed that various polling stations had been established in small premises/buildings of private schools (measuring five marla or so). The situation was worst at polling station No. 110 established in a congested building of a private school situated at Mast Iqbal Road near Chungi Amar Sadhu. “You can see the situation we are passing through, as here we have no refreshment in such an inclement weather,” a female polling officer told Dawn.

Her presiding officer Mr Zakir Mubeen also mentioned various problems the polling staff was facing. However, arrangements at polling station No. 109 in NA-134 were somewhat better. “We have effective coordination here. We are facilitating the polling staff with provision of water, drinks etc. Everyone is satisfied here,” said a police official on duty.

PO in NA-123 (polling station No 37), Ms Saba Salman, was of the view that while everything was going well, the only problem was the disruption to electricity supply, making the heat unbearable. She also complained that her duty was placed too far away from where she lived.

A female PO in NA-132, a constituency where PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif and PTI’s Mansha Sindhu, were the main candidates, termed arrangements worst ever since she started performing election-related duties. “It is really an ill-managed elections, as I faced too much difficulty in getting the material (ballot papers, forms etc) weighing 40 to 50 kilogram shifted from the office of returning officer (sessions courts) to here at this polling station,” the PO at polling station No.90 in NA-132 (Kahna Nu, Ferozpur Road)) deplored while talking to Dawn staffers.

“The arrangements in the 2015 local bodies polls were much better than this general elections,” she said. Since the PS-90 covers most of the rural areas, many voters reached here early to cast their ballots.

Most of the voters in urban posh localities started visiting polling stations after 3pm. A huge rush of voters was witnessed at a polling station at Lahore Cantonment in NA-129, a constituency where the main contest was between PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and PTI’s Aleem Khan.

“As many voters rushed here after 3pm, it became difficult for us to handle such a huge crowd,” commented Saqlain Raza, PO at polling station No.205 (NA-129).

At the same polling station, some voters complained of not being allowed by the staff to cast votes. “My ID card got misplaced. I showed them the FIR regarding my [misplaced] card. But they didn’t allow me to cast vote,” said a voter, Muhammad Usman Ali.

“But on the other hand, they (the polling staff) allowed many such voters to cast votes. Why are they showing such discrimination?” he alleged.

In NA-130, the polling stations established at Gulberg’s Home Economics College were found packed with voters at 4:30pm. PML-N voters, here, were also found accusing the staff of facilitating the PTI’s voters.

“I and several other female PML-N voters stayed at the polling station for about four hours, but they didn’t allow us [to cast votes]. But those affixing PTI badges, were accommodated quickly,” said Ms Arifa Irfan, a voter while talking to media outside the home economics college.

PML-N candidate Khwaja Ahmad Hassan said [outside this polling station] that he would lodge a complaint with the ECP to the effect.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018