At least 2 killed, 3 injured in firing incident at polling station during Daska by-election

Published February 19, 2021
PML-N supporters protest outside a polling station in Daska on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
PML-N supporters protest outside a polling station in Daska on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

At least two people were killed and three others injured in a firing incident at a polling station on Friday in Daska's NA-75 constituency, located in Sialkot, where by-polls were being held, Sialkot DPO Hassan Asad Alvi confirmed to Dawn.com.

One of the victims was reportedly a member of the ruling PTI while the other belonged to the PML-N. A PTI polling agent was also among the injured, according to eyewitnesses and local media.

According to Alvi, the main suspect, Javed, who is a PML-N worker, had visited the Goindke polling station in the morning, where he had a verbal altercation with one of the deceased.

He returned to the polling station later and when the PTI workers exited the building, he opened fire on them before fleeing from the scene.

The official added that police were conducting raids to apprehend him.

Meanwhile, the provincial police chief IGP Inam Ghani directed the Regional Police Officer to arrest the suspects immediately and initiate legal action against them.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also took notice of the incident. In a tweet, Buzdar said that those involved in the shooting incident "will be arrested as soon as possible and punished strictly according to the law".

He added that he has demanded an investigation report from the inspector general of police. "Prompt action will be taken against the accused."

The by-elections in NA-75 were held for the seat that fell vacant after the demise of PML-N MNA Sahibazada Syed Iftikharul Hassan Shah.

Clashes between voters and police broke out in multiple places, including polling stations and a police station at several times during the day, despite the presence of a large contingent of law enforcement personnel in the area. PML-N leaders and supporters accused authorities of preventing voters from casting their ballots, with senior party leader Rana Sanaullah saying that it should be "ensured" that voting continues until 8pm so that all those who are within the premises of polling stations can vote.

A notification from the Election Commission of Pakistan said the voting process was supposed to conclude by 5pm, but added that people who are inside polling stations will be allowed to cast their votes "in any situation".

For her part, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz accused the ruling PTI of "using every tactic to steal your (voters') votes" and urged supporters to remain at the polling stations until the Form 45 was issued and final results were announced.

She also posted a video of people, who she said were PML-N supporters, protesting and banging at a polling station's gate.

"PMLN voters in Daska lose patience, protest and break down doors of a polling station after being made to wait for hours as polling time draws to an end," she tweeted. "Have some shame."

She shared another video of police officials charging at people inside a polling station and said: "Worst baton-charge launched by police on voters at Daska Kalan polling station.

"Does this police serve the people or PTI?"

Provincial election commissioner takes notice

The Punjab provincial election commissioner directed the RPO and Punjab IGP to take "strict notice" of the firing incident, according to his office.

Quoting the district monitoring officer's report, the statement said a clash broke out between PML-N and PTI polling agents at polling station number 229 located in a government high school. The polling agents of both parties reached the gate of the polling station where PML-N and PTI workers clashed and firing took place.

As a result of the firing, two men belonging to the PML-N and PTI, respectively, died on the spot, the provincial election commissioner's office said.

Taking immediate notice of the incident, the provincial election commissioner directed the RPO and Punjab police chief to immediately arrest the persons responsible and bring them to book.

Allegations, counter-allegations

Special Assistant to Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Firdous Ashiq Awan, in a tweet, said that PML-N leaders were "roaming around in polling stations".

"Rana Sanaullah's media talk in the polling camp is a slap in the face of Election Commission rules!" she said. "What would the ROs like to say about where the rules and regulations of the Election Commission have gone? Double standards will call into question the transparency of elections."

ECP rules forbid lawmakers from visiting polling stations during an election.

Addressing a press conference in Daska, Awan said that the PML-N's traditional behaviour and "extremist mindset" of not accepting or tolerating their political opponents was on display at the polling station in Daska where violence erupted.

She alleged that two brothers who were PTI supporters and polling agents were verbally abused, subjected to violence and shot at. "A by-passer was also injured as the result of that firing."

"Ultimately this is the actual thinking of the PML-N that it is ready to go to whatever extreme to achieve their target," said Awan. She further alleged bias on the part of the returning officer and district monitoring officer in their observation of the government and the opposition.

PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb also addressed the violence while speaking to the media outside the Election Commission of Pakistan and said, "The Punjab government failed in maintaining law and order during the election."

She blasted the administration and provincial government for the violence and called for cases to be registered against Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Inspector General Punjab and Capital City Police Officer Punjab.

The PML-N leader condemned the incident and the loss of lives, claiming that the PTI did not care about the loss of life of its own supporters. She alleged the government had resorted to using whatever tactic possible, even using the police as thugs to carry out "political terrorism" in an attempt to subvert and affect the voting process.

"This war is no longer a political war, it is a war for Pakistan's Constitution and rights of the people. The people had come to vote while risking their lives and I pray for those who got martyred and for the recovery of those who got injured, no matter which party they belong to."

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