Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh was detained on Tuesday by Malir police after the the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ordered his expulsion from Karachi's constituency of PS-88 Malir, where by-polls are taking place for a seat of the Sindh Assembly.
M A Baloch, the provincial lawmaker's spokesperson, confirmed that Sheikh had been detained by police officials in Darsano Chano area of Malir. However, the police has not commented on the situation so far.
The constituency that mainly consists of the city’s suburbs in Malir saw an aggressive election campaign from all political parties, especially the PPP and the PTI.
The seat fell vacant after Murtaza Baloch, the minister for human settlement, died of Covid-19 in June last year. The PPP has given ticket to his son, Yousuf Murtaza Baloch, to contest the by-election while the PTI candidate is Jan Sher Junejo.
As many as 108 polling stations have been set up in the constituency, out of which 36 have been declared “sensitive” and another 33 “highly sensitive”.
Earlier today, the PPP wrote a letter to the ECP and urged it to take notice of the alleged rule violations by Sheikh.
The letter by Taj Haider, the incharge of the PPP's Central Election Cell, said Sheikh could be seen roaming the constituency with armed persons and was harassing voters. He also attached videos and pictures of Sheikh's alleged misconduct.
"Sheikh, being a member of the Sindh Assembly, is not permitted under the law to enter the constituency and that too with armed persons. He has been reported to have entered with armed persons in polling stations 20 and 22 of Bhitai Abad.
"Voters are being taken to the PTI office situated in the area and being given parchis on the promise of being paid Rs12,000 under the Ehsaas programme if they vote for the PTI candidate," the letter said.
The PPP urged the ECP to expel the provincial lawmaker and his armed guards from the constituency, and to take further suitable action.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman also took to social media to highlight the provincial lawmaker's alleged misconduct. "By law, no MPA can enter the constituency while polling is ongoing, but [Sheikh] has flouted all laws," she said.
Following up on the complaint, the Regional Election Commissioner Karachi issued a notification directing law enforcement authorities to "expel" Sheikh from the constituency till the culmination of the polling process.
"He is visiting the constituency as reported by monitoring teams constituted by the ECP as well as media reports for the transparent conduct of by-election PS-88, Malir-II. The supra member of the provincial assembly is visiting the constituency in the form of a car rally along with armed guards and sufficient peoples [inconveniencing] voters," the notification said.
It added that no sitting MNAs, MPAs, senators, minister and other public office bearers from any group or party will be allowed to visit the territorial area where polling is being held.
Meanwhile, PPP's Haider, in another letter to the ECP claimed that Sheikh's guards "resorted to firing" at a polling station in Ghulam Hussain Jokhio Goth after the chief election commissioner's "prompt orders to evict the leader of the opposition from the constituency".
Two PPP workers were injured due to the firing, Haider added.
He urged the chief election commissioner to "take action under the law against [Sheikh] and the armed persons accompanying him", saying that videos of the incident would be emailed to the ECP.
An application for registration of a first information report (FIR) against Sheikh and several others has also been submitted at Memon Goth police station by PPP workers in the constituency.
"Today, Masroor Siyal and nearly 70 unknown men equipped with weapons attacked the polling station in our [area] Ghulam Hussain Jokhio Goth. They tried to enter forcibly. Our village elders pleaded with them and solved the matter," the application stated.
"He came again for the second time and repeated his actions. Leader of the Opposition [in the Sindh Assembly] Haleem Adil Sheikh, Masroor Siyal, Zubair Baloch and 200 other hooligans fired [shots] in the street," it said, adding that PPP workers were "surrounded and tortured".
All this happened in the presence of police who played their full part in trying to establish law and order, the application said. A PPP worker was injured as a result of the firing, it added.
"We want that an FIR is registered [on charges of] attempted murder and rigging and attempts to disrupt the polling process."
'Ill-intentions of Sindh govt'
On the other hand, Sheikh said that "police-gardi (spreading terror through police)" was being done.
He claimed that police were "rigging the elections and it has been proved". Casting votes is everyone's right but we will not allow anyone to rig the election or spread terror, he said.
In the video, Sheikh can be heard criticising Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and questioning why the polling process at a centre was being shifted.
Talking to reporters later in the day, Captain (retd) Jamil, a PTI MNA from Malir, said that party workers were not allowed to meet Sheikh initially.
"We had come prepared to give an undertaking that if [Haleem Adil Sheikh] is released, he will go home," he said, referring to the ECP order.
"The SSP has informed us that Sheikh was arrested in connection with an FIR registered in the past," he said, adding that he believed the arrest at this time on the basis of an FIR in the past was an "ill-intention by the Sindh government".
"There are a lot of reports of rigging in the PS-88 by-poll."
Meanwhile, polling is also being held today for two other constituencies — PS-43 in Sanghar and PB-20 Pishin.