• Three PTI men held for carrying arms, six PML-N men arrested for creating unrest
• Maryam says government has lost people’s trust
GUJRAT: In the much-awaited re-election in the Daska (NA-75) constituency of the National Assembly after the February by-poll had been marred by violence, rigging and disappearance of over 20 presiding officers, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Saturday emerged victorious by defeating the ruling party’s candidate with a margin of 16,642 votes.
According to unofficial result of all 360 polling stations compiled by the returning officer, PML-N’s Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar won the contest by securing 110,075 votes against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Ali Asjad Malhi who bagged 93,433, while Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Khalil Sandhu received 8,268 votes.
As the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ensured strict security arrangements for the re-election, Daska remained largely peaceful this time except a few incidents of exchange of harsh words between supporters of the PTI and PML-N. The ECP had earlier withheld the results of the Feb 19 by-poll in Daska due to rigging, disappearance of over 20 presiding officers and violence, and ordered a re-election in the entire constituency. The move was challenged before the Supreme Court, which upheld the ECP decision.
Soon after the party’s victory, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz in her tweets congratulated the candidate and said one after another defeat in by-elections in all the provinces indicated that people had no trust in the government. Rejected by the masses, the government had no reason to continue, she tweeted.
The NA-75 seat fell vacant after the death of PML-N MNA Syed Iftikharul Hassan aka Zahry Shah in August 2020. In the 2018 general election, Mr Hassan had secured 101,617 votes against PTI’s Malhi who bagged 61,727 votes.
According to the ECP, there were a total of 494,003 registered voters, including 273,006 male and 220,997 female voters, in the constituency.
On Saturday, Daska Deputy Superintendent of Police Malik Adnan told Dawn that at least three PTI workers were arrested for displaying weapons at a polling station of Uggo Chak. The police seized two Kalashnikovs, two pistols and a 223 bore gun, besides several rounds of bullets from them, he added.
Similarly, the officer said, six PML-N supporters were detained at the same polling station for ‘creating unrest’, adding that cases had been registered against them.
The Punjab government had imposed Section 144 in Sialkot district banning display of weapons.
There was a heavy deployment of law enforcement agencies around sensitive polling stations to avert violence, while Pakistan Rangers and Punjab police personnel continued patrolling in Daska town and its adjoining areas all day.
Locals appreciated that teams of the LEAs were quick in response even to their calls about exchange of slogans between the supporters of rival candidates at some polling stations.
Activists and supporters of both parties at various polling stations, however, were worried about relatively low turnout of voters and attributed this to the repeated elections in the constituency within a short span of time as well as the change of polling date three times since Feb 19. Some believed the low turnout was due to the third wave of Covid, as people preferred to stay indoors.
The by-election was widely covered by the media as a number of journalists from Lahore, Islamabad and Gujranwala region arrived here to report after a video showing presiding officers taking away ballot boxes during the last by-election had gone viral on social media.
Special Assistant to Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told a press conference after the polling that Prime Minister Imran Khan had given instructions to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to ensure a ‘level-playing field’ in the by-poll.
Electronic media had shown that the polling was conducted in a smooth and peaceful manner, Ms Awan said, adding that the administration had complied with the ECP instructions in letter and spirit.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2021