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Women arrive at a polling station in St Mary’s School on Murree Road to cast their vote for NA-60 seat on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Women arrive at a polling station in St Mary’s School on Murree Road to cast their vote for NA-60 seat on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Two Islamabad union council chairmen contesting a National Assembly seat for the first time did not put up an impressive show in NA-53 on Sunday.

In addition to failing to bring out voters in the capital, in some areas the PTI and PML-N even closed their polling camps down before voting ended. Rumours were also circulating all day about a number of independent candidates who had expressed support for the PTI, and there was some confusion over why the PPP election symbol was on the ballot paper when they had announced support for the PML-N.

PTI candidate Ali Nawaz Awan, UC I-8 chairman and the opposition leader in the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, kept his focus mainly on the city’s urban areas. His workers were of the view that the PTI is popular in the urban parts of the capital and would secure the NA-53 seat, which was vacated by Prime Minister Imran Khan after he won it in the general election.

While PTI maintains focus on capital’s urban areas, PML-N relies on family ties to sway residents

However PML-N supporters argued that their candidate, UC Phulgram chairman Raja Waqar Mumtaz, not only has a large biradari but his father is also a union council member which would help him win.

There were fewer banners, streamers, party flags and other campaigning paraphernalia in the city compared to the general election. Women and men from both parties also did not visit homes as part of their campaigning efforts, as they did in July.

But PTI worker Abid Rasheed, a retired banker who was running an election camp, said the PTI would win the election easily because the seat belonged to the party.

“Islamabad is an urban area and we are very popular in cities. Although we have done our best to pull voters out of their homes it is a fact that a large number of voters do not come out during by-elections. Moreover, because it is a Sunday a number of people would be in their native areas,” he said.

When asked if he thought recent controversies such as that of the increase in prices of petroleum products would affect the election results, Mr Rasheed said it would affect 1 or 2pc of voters, but the margin of victory for the PTI in the general election was so high that the party would win easily.

Another PTI worker, Asif Mehmood, said PTI had run a better campaign that the PML-N.

“There were hardly any PML-N advertisements in the city’s urban areas, so we believe our show was much better. Moreover, Mr Awan has already raised issues such as water and basic facilities, so people would prefer to vote for him,” he said.

But Rana Nabeel Ahmed, a PML-N worker, said that although turnout seemed low chances were high that the PML-N candidate would win.

“Mr Waqar is the son of a famous union council member, Raja Mumtaz, who not only served the people but a road was also named after him in Phulgran near Bhara Kahu. He has a large biradari, so he can win the election,” he said.

Although the PPP had announced that it would withdraw its candidate in favour of the PML-N, its election symbol was still present on the ballot paper on Sunday leading to confusion about the party’s supporters.

PPP leader Syed Ibrar Rizvi said his party had awarded its ticket in NA-53 to Iftikhar Shahzada, but then decided that the PML-N would support the PPP in Sindh and vice versa in Punjab.

“Although we announced our withdrawal from the race in Islamabad, the date of the withdrawal of nomination papers had passed so our candidate’s name appeared on the ballot paper,” he said.

Rehman Shahid, a government servant in the Cabinet Division, told Dawn he voted PTI despite being severely disappointed in the PTI government’s policies and the recent price hike.

“I believe we should give a chance and proper time to a new party, but I will not continue supporting the PTI if it fails to address Pakistan’s issues,” he explained.

A presiding officer at a school in I-8/1, Dr Khalid Mehmood, told Dawn turnout was 22pc at 3pm.

“However voting was held in a peaceful environment and no one messed with each other. I hope turnout increases in the next two hours,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2018