GUJRAT: The PML-N and JI leaders blamed police for foul play aimed at causing a low turnout of voters during the polling process in various areas of PP-51, Wazirabad, where by-poll was held on Friday.

Police also raided the houses of PML-N active workers early in the morning in various parts of the constituency and detained many of them. Few of them were later released after the senior party leaders lodged a strong protest against the police through social media posts.

Sohdra, a small town near Wazirabad, is known for being a stronghold of the PML-N and was the main target of the authorities as two former councillors belonging to the PML-N were picked up by the police from their houses in the wee hours of Friday after breaking into their houses. They were set free later in the day. Similarly, arrests were reported from other parts of the constituency.

A scuffle between police and JI workers was also reported from Dhaunkal village where JI workers alleged they had caught a police inspector doing rigging at a polling station. Angry workers besieged the police and chanted slogans in protest against the rigging. However, a contingent of Rangers took away the inspector from the scene.

Senior PML-N leader Attaullah Tarrar reached the polling station of the Virtual University campus after reports of massive rigging. He alleged around 600 valid votes were cast at the said polling station but 897 votes were found from the ballot boxes, with 300 fake votes put into ballot boxes by the police and ruling party people.

Punjab PML-N President Rana Sanaullah told the media that the law enforcers made every effort to keep the turnout very low as people were kept away from the polling stations in the PML-N stronghold areas on the pretext of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

PP-51 was vacated after the death of PML-N MPA Shaukat Manzoor Cheema last year after which by-poll was announced. PML-N pitched Talat Shaukat Cheema, the widow of ex-MPA, against the ruling PTI’s Yousaf Araen whereas JI’s Nasir Kalair, TLP’s Nasir Jawinda and some independents were also in the run. -- Waseem Ashraf Butt

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2021

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