KARACHI, Aug 18: Serious allegations of rigging marred the first phase of local body elections in Karachi on Thursday, though the polling process went off peacefully, without any major incident of violence.
According to Dawn reporters covering the election, the turn-out was barely over 30 per cent, but officials supervising the polls claimed it was 45 to 50 per cent.
A cumbersome polling process caused delays and forced a large number of voters to stay away from the polling stations.
Presiding officers at various stations complained that they had not been provided with the required wherewithal to conduct the elections.
They said the rangers and police officials, on election duty did little to stop the activists from entering polling stations.
Saddar Town remained the focus of attention where four ballot boxes stuffed with ballot papers were recovered even before the beginning of the voting process.
The turnout remained low until midday. It picked up in almost all the polling stations except those located in posh areas.
According to estimates, the turn-out was between 25 and 30 per cent. At Fazlur Rehman School, Ratan Talaow, in the polling station No 7 of UC-8 in male booth No 1, 11 votes had been cast by 10.30 am while in the booth No 2 only two votes were cast. At women’s booth No 1, not a single vote were cast while at booth No 2 only three votes were cast.
The turnout in Orangi, Baldia, Lyari and Keamari was low until 2pm, amid allegations of stuffing of ballot boxes and takeover of polling stations.
In UC-7, Orangi, there were complaints that polling stations had been changed to the advantage of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the voters had to reach Raees Amrohi Colony and Lal Shabaz Nagar. The turnout was good in MQM- dominated constituencies.
The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal-supported parties, especially Jamat-i-Islami, were able to bring voters to the polling station.
In Korangi Town, presiding officers looked the other way as polling agents took control of most polling stations, asking voters to cast bogus votes.
In Korangi Town, UC-7, a polling agent of the Muttahida was seen asking women voters to use one computerized national identity card to cast votes more than once.
When the presiding officer of the polling station –- a doctor performing election duties for the first time in his career –- was approached, the polling agent came to his room and said everything was in control in the polling station.
Personnel of the rangers at the gate of the polling station said they could not do anything about rigging because their job was to ensure that only voters with national identity cards entered the polling station.
Similarly, the presiding officer of the polling station-I of UC-12, Landhi Town, said people snatched from him ballot papers as rangers and police personnel did nothing to control rigging.
Site Town witnessed enthusiastic response from mostly Pakhtoon voters, but the presiding officer of a polling station in UC-8 said he had been provided with little stationery and fewer staff by the Election Commission.
Rangers posted at the polling station-I of UC-5, Shah Faisal Town, did not allow newsmen to enter the polling station as polling agents alleged that workers of a political party resorted to rigging.
BRISK POLLING: Brisk polling was seen at various polling stations in Liaquatabad, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Jamshed Towns.
Though turnout at a number of polling stations remained thin in the first three hours of polling which generally picked up between 8.15am and 8.30am, instead of official timings of 8am, it started increasing after 12 and by 3pm, the law-enforcement personnel had to ask the voters to stand in queues.
Police and rangers were also seen roaming inside the polling stations to ward off any untoward incident.
The army men also kept on patrolling major thoroughfares of Liaquatabad Town.
A heavy rush was seen at a number of polling stations, especially those in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Town in UC-10 (Pehlwan Goth), in UC-8 (Jamali Colony) and in UC-4 (Essa Nagri).
Similar was the situation at Bandhani Colony, Rizvia Sociaty and Firdous Colony and Nazimabad No.1 in Liaquatabad Town and in Jamshed Town’s PECHS-I, Jutland, Central Jacob Lines and Manzoor Colony union councils.
At the Bandhani Colony polling stations Nos 11 and 12 set up at the Anjuman-i-Islamia Primary School for, polling agents of only Haq Parast group were present there.
Long queues of voters, both male and female, were seen at Pehalwan Goth’s Govt Primary School where three polling stations (23, 24 and 25) were set up in UC-10. Of the total 1,219 male votes registered at the polling station No 23, only 131 had been cast by 12 noon and of the total 1,465 female votes, 51 were cast by 12.25pm.
In Rizvia Society at the polling station No 7 set up at Usmania Colony’s Islamia Govt Boys Primary School (Liaquatabad UC-1), over 400 votes were cast by 3.40pm, whereas the number of registered voters at the polling station stood at 1,210.
IBRAHIM HAIDERI: Strong-arm tactics by a certain group were witnessed at Moririo Community Centre where a polling station for women was set up in Ibrahim Haidery and even the election staff seemed afraid and remained silent.
At many polling stations, even water was not provided, at some others there was no electricity and the staff and voters perspired.—Shamim-ur-Rahman, Habib Khan Ghori, Azizullah Sharif, Bahzad Alam Khan, Bhagwandas, Mukhtar Alam and Arman Sabir.